liked the slower bluesy numbers here
nice voice
some promise

Grade - 1.8

released Feb 8th 2011

from the album - Vultures - 2.0

from all music


With her throaty vibrato and lushly orchestrated pop songs, Nicole Atkins made her debut in 2006, bringing to mind a blend of Roy Orbison, Loretta Lynn, and Jenny Lewis. She was raised in Neptune, NJ, and relocated to North Carolina during her late teens to study illustration at UNC Charlotte. After befriending members of the Avett Brothers and logging several years with the alt-country band Los Parasols, Atkins briefly returned to the tri-state area, where a series of open-mike performances in Manhattan's East Village helped her hone a sound that was more indebted to pop music than her work with Los Parasols.

Atkins spent the following years traveling between North Carolina and the Northeast, eventually settling in New Jersey at her parents' house. Performances in New York City helped her attract attention from several local musicians, and Atkins began piecing together a backing band comprised of guitarist Dave Hollinghurst, bassist John Flaughter, drummer Dan Mintzer, and keyboardist Daniel Chen. Operating under the name Nicole Atkins & the Sea, the band secured a residency at Piano's -- a popular nightspot in the Lower East Side -- and struck a deal with Columbia Records on the strength of Atkins' demo recordings and impressive performances. Atkins released the Bleeding Diamonds EP in 2006, and the group decamped to Sweden later that year to work on a full-length album. Featuring the songwriter's self-professed "pop-noir" sound, Neptune City arrived in late 2007, followed by an EP of cover material in 2008.

Before working on a second full-length album, Atkins contributed background vocals to A.C. Newman's Get Guilty and replaced her entire backup band. More changes arrived in July 2009, when she severed ties with Columbia. Although she eventually signed with Razor & Tie, the split with Columbia delayed the release of her sophomore album, Mondo Amore. When it finally appeared in February 2011, Mondo Amore found Atkins exploring her dark side, drawing upon her recent breakups (from her original label, her original band, and longtime boyfriend Paul Ritchie) and a love of '60s psychedelic rock for fuel.

Album Review

Nicole Atkins has the sort of chic, supersized voice that belongs to an earlier era. On 2007’s Neptune City, she set up shop in the Eisenhower years, channeling Phil Spector and Roy Orbison via a moody mix of piano-bar ballads, nocturnal torch songs, and girl group melodies. Mondo Amore continues the trend by keeping an eye on the past, but it shifts everything forward by one decade, mining blues-rock and late-‘60s psychedelia instead of Brill Building pop. Dovetailing with those new influences are three recent breakups -- Atkins’ severance from Columbia Records, her divorce from her original backup band, and a split with her longtime boyfriend -- all of which push Mondo Amore into fiery, guitar-driven, even borderline feral territory. During its quieter moments, though, the album builds upon the pretty, cosmopolitan retro-pop of its predecessor, meaning Mondo Amore doesn’t turn its back on Nicole Atkins’ roots as much as widen her catalog.

That being said, this is a very different album. Neptune City was a bittersweet ode to Atkins’ hometown, shot through with nostalgia and memories of the boyfriends she left behind. Mondo Amore, with its leanly muscled rock songs and scaled-down production, is a kiss-off to the boy she met after relocating to New York. “Our love’s a dark disaster since I turned on the light,” she sings on “Cry Cry Cry,” a barbed pop tune that splits the difference between Motown and garage rock. Three songs later, an enraged Atkins -- her vocals scuffed up by a distortion filter -- stomps her way through the electric country-blues of “My Baby Don’t Lie,” threatening to administer a black eye to the girl who’s been running around with her boyfriend. The outro to “You Come to Me” evokes a young Ann Wilson, and “You Were the Devil” -- with its spaghetti Western arrangement and low, ominous vocals -- takes its cues from Nancy Sinatra’s duets with Lee Hazlewood. That’s a lot of musical real estate to cover, but Nicole Atkins makes the songs sound like her own property, and they all serve as a showcase for her voice: a big, hefty instrument that rarely weighs its owner down. Mondo Amore may work best as a companion piece to Neptune City -- the fast ‘n’ furious yang to that album’s soft, pleasant yin -- but it’s got more than enough raw emotion to hold its own weight.

Track Listing

1 Vultures Atkins 4:12
2 Cry Cry Cry Atkins, Harrison 3:07
3 Hotel Plaster Atkins, Harrison 3:38
4 You Come to Me Atkins, Chen 3:46
5 My Baby Don't Lie Atkins 2:30
6 This Is for Love Atkins, Harrison 3:42
7 You Were the Devil Atkins, York 2:50
8 War Is Hell Atkins, Chen 4:30
9 Heavy Boots Atkins, Wilson 4:47
10 The Tower Atkins, Harrison 5:51