After hearing the dark pop sounds of Nicole Atkins debut album Neptune City roll around my head for nearly four years, the first listen to her second record Mondo Amore was a bit of a shock and something of a let down. This was all due to expectations.
What subsequent listens to Mondo Amore showed was the same big yet expressive voice. Lyrics that were anything but predictable and boring even when covering familiar ground. The production is leaner allowing Atkins voice room to breathe. The overall sound of the album was more in line with the original release of the song Neptune City from the Bleeding Diamonds EP, released in 2006. That was a sparser arrangement with stripped down production surrounding the song. It lent an entirely different vibe to the song as a result.
That vibe is present in the songs of Mondo Amore. The opening track, “Vultures,” is a look at people who want something out of you then the uptempo heartbreak of “Cry, Cry, Cry” pours out three minutes of disguised anguish with a finger popping beat and shiny sound. This is a song that should be blaring out of car speakers this summer, with such a sing-a-long chorus. This makes for a solid one-two punch to open the album.
Other standout songs include “Hotel Plaster” where Atkins talks about her long term relationship falling apart because she’s on the road pursuing her career and the lament evident in “Heavy Boots” is achingly beautiful. The last of the 10 tracks is a real keeper, the epic in sound and build up “The Tower” will leave you breathless as the CD ends. It also stands a good chance of causing you to start the album over again.
Atkins describes her own music as “pop-noir” and that’s a good place to start. The combination of rock, pop, and alt-country sounds makes for a self-assured record. It’s the self assurance in the songs and the way they are recorded that make this an album that should garner widespread airplay, but this ain’t the age of radio anymore. Since parting ways with Columbia Records, the break-up with her boyfriend, and splitting with her first band, Atkins comes out swinging with Mondo Amore, connecting with the material and the musicians to create an album of lasting value.