Nicole Atkins

Neptune City

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Throughout Neptune City, Nicole Atkins takes inspiration from some of rock's most famous women -- Stevie Nicks, Chrissie Hynde and Siouxsie Sioux, to name the most prominent. Though only time will tell if she will join the ranks of her inspirations, Atkins shows on this album that she has both the capability and potential. By either happy accident or cunning design, the lush arrangements on Neptune City, which call to mind Rufus Wainwright's Poses or Duke Special's Songs from the Deep Forest, showcase the depth, range, and versatility of Atkins' alto voice, not to mention her songwriting prowess. After years of breathy, lightweight female vocalists, it's a welcome reminder that a woman's voice (in both the physical and literary sense) can have strength and power without losing its appeal.

Even on numbers that employ more traditional pop sensibilities, Atkins is anything but vacuous or banal, and while the arrangements are certainly theatrical, they're not overbearingly so. This is evident from the beginning as the album's opener, "Maybe Tonight," starts off with a shimmering piano arpeggio and works into a song that sounds like a Brill Building or '60s girl group holdover for all the right reasons. The comparisons to musicians and styles of the past continue with "Cool Enough" and "Love Surreal," both of which share the cool, quirky, detached elegance that became the signature of Siouxsie and the Banshees later in their career. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the bombastic "Brooklyn's on Fire!" calls to mind similar pomp found on fellow Siouxsie Sioux fans My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade, albeit with a more cheerful subject and melody. The album's gem is its title track; the chorus sounds enough like an old Roy Orbison tune that it's almost a shock to find that the composition is an Atkins original. In the end, the lyrics and tune take a backseat to Atkins' vocals, which are highlighted through soft backing instrumentals.

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