As a contemporary music journalist, it seems nearly impossible to escape some level of reverence for Rolling Stone magazine. Whether this is due to residual effects from watching and re-watching cult classics like Almost Famous, or because of the publication’s trademark unconventionality is regardless. What matters is that when Rolling Stone makes a statement like “Best New Band of 2010”, the words seem to not only ring, but also resonate in our heads. It was this title that the magazine bestowed upon Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, and as their latest album demonstrates, there is definitely no smoke without fire.
The flames are in fact set ablaze on the band’s eighties rock ballad opener, and “Paris (Ooh Lah Lah)” proves to be quite representative of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals‘s overall environment. Potter’s infectious, range-spanning vocals accent some classic rock ‘n’ roll riffs, which then contrast against nonchalant bass lines and contained percussion, making the album seem at once light and heavy early on. Add in a touch of soul, a hint of funk, and a good dose of pop sensibility, and you arrive at the same sort of dynamic, vintage sounding material that forcefully grabbed ears on This Is Somewhere.
While the material does just that early on, Potter and company don’t really take off until “Goodbye Kiss”. Here, Grace and lead guitarist Scott Tournet come back down to Earth to join the rest of the band on a softer, heartbreak-y number that really accentuates the sexy range of the Vermont based singer. That song drives into upbeat number “Tiny Light”, where Potter and Tournet again leave the band behind, before rejoining them for a true moment of brilliance on “Colors”. The uplifting ballad brings a smile to your face, and the swagger driven, poppy, rock nature of the rest of the album does more than enough to keep it in place.
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals is ripe with a sound that mimics a great bottle of whiskey; hearty, aged to perfection, and with an interesting blend of tastes. While containing a broad blend of oft-begrudged styles – alt-country, funk, etc – the band seem to successfully mix genres, while uniting their sound under a grand old banner of rock and roll. Though Rolling Stone casts a big shadow, the Vermont-based five-piece skip trying to fill it in, and instead are mostly successful at erasing it with their delectable rock ‘n’ roll glow.