East Village sensation Nicole Atkins goes big-time on her debut full-length, Neptune City. While originally from said New Jersey beach-town, Atkins was an up-and-comer in New York’s anti-folk scene when she caught the eye of the music industry, and sparked a major label bidding war. Following last year’s Bleeding Diamonds EP, the singer/songwriter traipsed off to a far different seaside town, Malmö, Sweden, to record Neptune; she’s gone big and grand, yet still retains her intimate touch.
Single “Maybe Tonight” opens things up on a very high note. This epic piece carries you with its inspiring vocals and instrumentation, yet still has that personal touch, and never goes over the top. The subsequent “Together We’re Both Alone” is a not quite as fine torch song in a similar style, but then “The Way It Is” goes into an old-school diva-like tone, throwing back to those days when that title meant something positive.
Pieces like “The Way” and the following “Cool Enough”, a grooving, cabaret-soul song, show off Atkins’ pipes. However, one shouldn’t overlook the impressive instruments that back that voice up, like on “Maybe Tonight” and “Love Surreal”, a faster, more pressing number that mashes up expanse with disco-darkness. Time and again on Neptune City, Atkins matches up well to her music, including the flowing title track or the catchy beat of finisher “Party’s Over”. There’s also a good bit of fun leavened in with the proceedings, nowhere more so than with the explosive “Brooklyn’s On Fire!”
About to start her first coast-to-coast headlining tour, Atkins goes whole hog with her backing band as Nicole Atkins & The Sea. While some of the songs on Neptune City might ring a little too similar, flanked by The Sea, Atkins is sure to only grow. You might have missed her when she was just doing open mike nights at Sidewalk Café on in residency at Piano’s (QRO venue review), but don’t make that mistake now.
MP3 Stream: “Maybe Tonight”