Nicole Atkins - Neptune City
Record Label: Columbia Records
Release Date: October 30, 2007
Asbury Park, New Jersey was once the Garden State’s Xanadu, an enchanting place where amusement rides, street bazaars, and entertainment ruled. Neptune City, which is on the outskirts of Asbury Park, was born out of this enticing world and is also the birth place of singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins, who entitled her latest release Neptune City as a tribute to where she came from and has returned to as a model daughter. Produced by Tore Johansson (Franz Ferdinand, OK GO, Cardigans, New Order), Atkins recorded the album at Johansson’s studio in Sweden, giving the music a modern cosmopolitan-pop fare over Atkins' normally Americana/folk-pop declarations. Some tracks have remnants of ‘50s blues-pop relatable to The Ronettes and other tracks have illustrious world-pop melodies reflective of Mary Lee’s Corvette, but through the entire album Atkins’ vocal registers resound with a hypnotic cadence similar to Fleetwood Mac’s songstress Stevie Nicks, which add to the songs' nostalgic mists.
The songs on Neptune City are personal stories, some tragic like “War Torn” and “Kill the Headlights,” and others are blissfully versed like “Cool Enough” and “Love Surreal.” In “Cool Enough,” she elates, “I don’t care where you’re going / You’re taking me with you / This place got nothing that I could want / But I think that some day I might feel different / But still, that’s some day / Still, that’s some day / So take me with you.” Many of the songs offer a sense of hope that life does get better than it is and can be just as fulfilling as you imagine it to be. Atkins’ band, which consists of Daniel Chen (keyboards), Dave Hollinghurst (guitar), and Dan Mintzer (drums), supply the basis for the melodies, but it is the orchestral tones which cause the songs to soar like in “Maybe Tonight” and the string arrangements holding court through “Together We’re Both Alone.” The soft-pop coloring indulges in series of highs and lows, which cord seesawing motions through the transitions. The vocal escalations and descents form brooks along the softly swaying motions and chimes of sleigh-riding bells in “The Way It Is” producing a cool elegance liken to the ‘50s blues-pop vocal group The Ronettes.
Atkins’ dusky vocal hues have a resemblance to Steve Nicks on modern-pop tracks like “Cool Enough” and “War Torn.” The classically toned keyboard shimmers and dainty guitar swags bond with the delicate drum loops creating a pensive atmosphere in “Cool Enough.” The vibe for “War Torn” is so picturesque that you can imagine a music video made for this tune, taking listeners through destitute streets and speaking out loud about what is in front of their eyes. The upbeat tempo of “Love Surreal” tangles up the taut strings with gently wavy rhythms, while the melodic facing of the title track and “Brooklyn’s on Fire” are reflective of ‘50s pop motifs with softly glittering sonic fields. The turnstile-like grooves and shooting choruses of “Brooklyn’s on Fire” give the song personality, as too does the clip-on platelets of dark resonating guitar chords for “Kill the Headlights.” The mid-tempo tune “Party’s Over” has a modern-pop chassis with dotted beats that may remind you of the songs that you listen to while driving with the roof down on the convertible, and then closing out with an amenable string arrangement.
Gone from Nicole Atkins music are her Americana/folk-pop rudiments, and in its place are modern-pop rubies. The whole album is tooled with melodic patterned frescos combining orchestral fields with pop/rock elements. The album does justice to the real Neptune City.