Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Reviews:: Nicole Atkins Neptune City

What else can I say about Nicole Atkins? After the success of her debut EP (Bleeding Diamonds), she made it clear that hers was a name we would hearing again and again and I've been waiting to hear more ever since.

Her full length - Neptune City - is about to come out on Columbia records and it should push her into the spotlight. Instead of the lovely piano driven melodies, Nicole and the band really drift more into the rock side of the equation (Case in point: the gritty guitar work and reverb on Cool Enough or the 80's crunch of Love Surreal). It's a noticeable change (although expected when you hear Rick Rubin and Tore Johansson twisted some knobs on this one), but not one that alienates people who fell in love with the chamber pop arrangements she used so effortlessly.

The reason? Well, despite the heavier feel and extra production she uses, all of the elements of the EP still shimmer. Her vocals are still the star of the show (I love how she mixes soul, country and blues so easily), and tracks like Together We're Both Alone still showcase the strings, horns and country tinges I loved from her previous work. She still uses slinky arrangements that float around corners like a cold breeze in an old house (The Way It Is), but she still uses her classic cabaret style.

Still with all these similarities, you can't help but talk about her growth on this one. Her range and styles are much broader and her band (the Sea) really found the balance needed to be a great supporting player. They expand with gentle swells when needed, but know when to sit back and let Nicole's powerful voice take center stage. As you listen to her belt out War Torn, the interplay with the band is terrific because you can focus on every word she says without realizing how much instrumentation is packed into the song.

Nicole has said this record is a collection of stories she's gathered over the years, so it's no surprise that the stand out track is Neptune City (her hometown in Jersey). The track drips with the emotion of a girl torn between staying and leaving and she really let's her voice be heard. The album keeps pushing forward with the big sounds of Brooklyn's on Fire and Party's Over. The strings and horn crescendo at the right times and the bass and drums keep you nodding and unlike so many records these days, you really wish their was another song to keep you shuffling along.

When Bleeding Diamonds came out, people were quick to compare her to Rufus, Jenny Lewis and other big names. I think when people hear Neptune City, they will start including her name in the list of great artists, not just pointing out the similarities she shares.

Nicole & the Sea are playing with the Pipettes @ the Plaza on November 3rd. Despite the asstastic venue, this is a can't miss affair.
MP3:: Party's Over

web site :: myspace

Posted at 12:18 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 8:18 PM, Blogger Jersey Girl did sayeth:

Ack...VERY nice review. I just wrote one for Upstage Magazine, and you captured everything I meant to say, but didn't. My review will be published within the week in the November issue, but in the meantime, I would invite you and any of your readers who dig Nicole to read my cover story in the current (October) issue:;=printedition

See you in next month's issue :-)


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