Nicole Atkins snuck onto the music scene in 2007 with her first album Neptune City, which was 1960’s wall-of-sound meets Disney classic soundtrack. Vocally theatrical meets musically layered with an end result consisting of a huge yet dreamy sound. Like something out of a 1930s romance black-and-white film.
Her second full-length album in comparison is much more stripped. Trading in the wall-of-sound production with a still-full sounding 60s rock and roll and the twinkling piano with a rough distortion guitar.
Most of the tracks on Mondo Amore use imagery in the lyrics to accompany what the music provides, but not always so pleasant. The album’s opening track and first single Vultures is centred around the lines “Vultures circle in/Heavy like a stone/They take all they can get/Until you’re dirt and bone”, but she doesn’t let it end there as the final line in the song provides a glimmer of hope, “Ahead there is a tiny star that even I can see,” before chanting into a sea of swirling violins and na-na-nah’s.
Immediately, things sound more down-to-earth on the second track Cry Cry Cry, a modern Motown sounding pop song that is the most conventional Nicole has sounded so far. If she wanted to make an attempt at a pop hit, this would be the one to do it with.
Her vocals have grown since the last record, at times going in all-out rock mode such as on My Baby Don’t Lie, a 1960s sounding electric folk song featuring harmonica with fiddle, stomping drum beat and electric guitar backing up her sometimes-distorted vocals while lyrically angry at the accusations facing her man “telephone, all alone, ringin’ obscene/Can’t believe what this girl is saying to me/And if that little girl don’t shut her mouth/She’s gonna get a black eye/Cause my baby don’t lie”. Such a contrast musically from the next track This Is For Love, which sounds more at home to anyone familiar with what a Nicole Atkins song sounds like. Upbeat with full sounding production.
The most chilling lines on this record just may be the connecting choruses of the tragic final track The Tower. Starting with “When the light finally dies and we look to the sky/Will we finally know why/they call the dawn the morning/and I wish we’d said goodbye.” and ending with “So when the light finally dies/I’ll know the answer to why/They call the dawn, mourning/Wish I could’ve told you goodbye.”
Nicole has shown a lot of growth from her last record but she is still wrapping her songs up with stories. Lyrically and musically, both providing their own point of view. Providing music for any tragic tale, Nicole says it best in Hotel Plaster: “my pain could learn to play the violin but it could not bring you back. At least it’d have a pretty soundtrack.”
2. Cry Cry Cry
3. Hotel Plaster
4. You Come To Me
5. My Baby Don’t Lie
6. This Is For Love
7. You Were The Devil
8. War Is Hell
9. Heavy Boots
10. The Tower