Release Date: Feb 4, 2014
Record label: Relativity
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
For her third LP, American pop chanteuse Nicole Atkins returned to the Nordic coastal city of Malmö, Sweden where she and her then band the Sea recorded their first album Neptune City in 2006. At that time, Atkins, flush with a new contract from Columbia and full of commercial promise, laid down a darkly romantic set of torchy songs written about her hometown back in New Jersey. Seven years later, an ultimately wiser and more world-weary artist made a second Scandinavian sojourn to reconnect with producer Tore Johansson and assemble the shadowy and richly detailed Slow Phaser.
On the surface, “Slow Phaser” appears to be a return to the immaculate popcraft of Nicole Atkins’s sparkling debut “Neptune City” after veering toward more a rough-and-tumble rootsiness on its follow-up “Mondo Amore. ” And indeed, returning “Neptune City” producer Tore Johansson once again provides a crispness, with each sonic building block set precisely in place. But Atkins’s songwriting has since mutated, so that even songs that would have fit on “Neptune City” (the remix-ready disco track “Girl You Look Amazing”) or “Mondo Amore” (the stomping country-gospel “Sin Song”) represent a progression.
Nicole Atkins took three years off between her last record and Slow Phaser, and while I don’t have definite proof, I suspect she may have used that time to track down the devil and make one of those Robert Johnson/Crossroads deals. That’s not to say 2011’s Mondo Amore or her earlier efforts weren’t good, it’s just that Slow Phaser is a big step forward for Atkins, solidifying her reputation as one of the most authentic bar room voices in American music today. Lyrically her songs have never been better, and couple that with her throaty, soothing vocals and the orchestra pop music backing and this record is not only her best yet, but one of the best releases 2014 has offered so far.
Nicole Atkins“Slow Phaser”(Oh Mercy! Records)4 starsNicole Atkins has a bullet-proof voice. Gleaming in tone, piercing in volume and unstoppable in attitude, it rips right through you. It’s the ideal vehicle for a song like “Cool People,” which could become the anti-Williamsburg anthem of all time. It’s a sarcastic takedown of hipster culture, delivered with a confidence that, ironically, makes Atkins seem like the coolest person in the room.
Three long playing records in and it sounds like Nicole Atkins has now hit her stride. Following on from the lush retro pop of her 2007 début, the major label release Neptune City and the starker, darker strains of its follow up Mondo Amore four years later – by which time Atkins and Columbia Records had already gone their separate ways – comes Slow Phaser. As its title suggests, she’s a late developer.? A native New Jerseyan, the emotional genesis of Slow Phaser can be found in the devastation wreaked upon Nicole Atkins’ home shores by Hurricane Sandy some two years ago.