The Starbucks coffeehouse chain diversified through the mid-2000s, offering music compilations that complemented their java-inspired menu. The market was referred to as coffeehouse pop, bringing together various derivatives of folk rock and adult pop. The middle-of-the-road tracks went hand-in-hand with the coffeehouse’s laid-back atmosphere, oftentimes bordering on the rustic.
Although none of the Starbucks compilations contain an original tune by singer-songwriter Karen Atkins, they should have. Her pastorals are in the class of artists chosen for Starbucks compilations. Most of all, her music shares Starbucks purpose, especially in her ability to provide audiences with a comfy background while they are alone with their thoughts. She makes listeners feel like they are reclining at home while listening to her songs.
Atkins’ new release, In My Room, shares many traits with the content and mission of the Starbucks brand of coffeehouse pop. Her bluesy crooning along the gentle waves of “Crooked Daylight” is reflective of the smooth intonations emblematic of songbirds like Norah Jones and Colbie Caillat. The prayer-like pacing of her vocals drifts listlessly along the piano melodies of “Tell Daniel” and is intuitively countered by the warm timbres of vocalist Aleksandra Shira Dubov.
Soft-throbbing beats make small depressions along “By Your Side” that work to elevate Atkins’ vocals while seaming the melody together. Most notably, the funky grooves of “Can’t Get” intermingle a cool strutting bassline with her fluid vocals. Another standout track is the reworking of Paul Simon’s popular tune “Slip Slidin’ Away,” anchored in country folk acoustics and haloed by her breezy vocals. In addition to customizing her vocals to coalesce with the laid-back, coffeehouse pop blend, Atkins inspires her audience to pause and listen to the lyrics.
Produced by Karen Atkins and multi-instrumentalist Xeno, the release leaves listeners with a fondness for pleasing pastorals. Originally from New York, Atkins moved to the San Francisco Bay area. There, she made a home for herself. The atmosphere of the city along the Pacific Coast stirred her own creative juices. Her new recording is a product of her time soaking up the city’s atmosphere, its culture, its people, and maybe even its coffee.
Karen Atkins – vocals, guitars, keyboards, percussion, ukulele; Xeno – vocals, guitars, keyboards; Reggie Hamilton – fretted and fretless bass; Curt Bisquera – drums; Cello Joe – cello; Chet Stromberg – mandolin; Aleksandra Shira Dubov – vocals