Beyoncé's sixth album loomed once "Formation" and its video were issued ahead of the superstar's Super Bowl 50 half-time performance. Two months and a couple weeks later, it appeared as a culturally seismic visual album…
The surprise of releasing an album with no warning is perhaps a slightly overdone trick now, but the news that Beyoncé released her sixth solo album, called Lemonade, on Saturday night still managed to be the kind of event that confirms her status as arguably the world’s leading female pop star.
Little was heard from James Blake throughout an almost three-year period that followed Overgrown, his second straight Top Ten U.K. album. He appeared on an Airhead track and released a 12" on his 1-800-Dinosaur label, yet it wasn't until February 2016, during his BBC Radio 1 program, that listeners got their initial taste of album three. Drawn like a scene from a dissolving relationship that immediately precedes release and relief, "Modern Soul" hinted that the album could be a bit brighter with less of the anguish that permeated the singer/producer's first two albums. Another song, a vaguely aching minimal dub ballad, was aired two months later, possibly chosen because it too had a title, "Timeless," that could potentially wind up detractors.
A more literal return to form, Blood Like Lemonade builds on the familiar downtempo grooves that filled Morcheeba's 2008 effort Dive Deep, but this time with original vocalist Skye Edwards back in the fray. Right from the opening dusty, minor-keyboard chord, the album is instantly identifiable for fans as stony, late-night grooves combine with melodies that are both pop-minded and soul-spirited. All the organic elements that sit on top of the slow, rolling drum machines are back, as is the sinister underbelly of their early material, although here it's amped up a touch. The title track references “drinking blood like lemonade,” while “Recipe for Disaster” begins “Wanna know why there's a dead guy in my dining room” before unveiling a story that's somewhere between the Jesse James legend and Natural Born Killers. The sweet tricks are Edwards using her velvet voice to make it all sound delicious, along with her ability to be equally effective on the breezy, positive numbers like “I Am the Spring.” Add “Crimson,” which would be the quintessential Morcheeba song if “Rome Wasn't Built in a Day” didn't exist, and Blood Like Lemonade exceeds expectations, coming in a close second behind fan favorite Big Calm.