Nicole Atkins

Slow Phaser

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For her third LP, American pop chanteuse Nicole Atkins returned to the Nordic coastal city of Malmรถ, Sweden where she and her then band the Sea recorded their first album Neptune City in 2006. At that time, Atkins, flush with a new contract from Columbia and full of commercial promise, laid down a darkly romantic set of torchy songs written about her hometown back in New Jersey. Seven years later, an ultimately wiser and more world-weary artist made a second Scandinavian sojourn to reconnect with producer Tore Johansson and assemble the shadowy and richly detailed Slow Phaser. If Neptune City was a nostalgic tribute and 2011's Mondo Amore was an edgy post-breakup album, then Slow Phaser seems to be the unthemed album of a more mature songwriter letting her muse carry her any which way. There is an uptempo, almost disco-like groove on tracks like the opener "Who Killed the Moonlight?" and the single "Girl You Look Amazing" which bring a sense of fun yet still retain the singer's noir-ish tendencies. Johansson's production places an emphasis on the band's bottom end with rich, deep basslines, and rocksteady drums like on the catchy "Cool People" and pulsing "Red Ropes." Paired with a bevy of analog synths and other experimental affectations, this sultry, rhythm-heavy style is a great match for Atkins' smoky vocals and dishy delivery on "The Worst Hangover," with its soulful backing vocals and proggy arrangement. On the wry, folky "Sin Song," she sings a quirky call and response with the rest of the band in a sort of anti-gospel rave-up which then leads into the delicate and sublime closer "Above as Below." Atkins has come a long way since her debut and without the distractions of a major label or a major break-up, she seems to be in the driver's seat and completely in control of her destiny, delivering her most artistic and confident album to date.

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