What makes a good album? lots of people have opinions on the subject, to be sure. Is it the artist? The Equipment? The songs? The Engineer? The arrangements? So, what if, um, all of those are top notch? You get Nicole Atkins’ new release, “Mondo Amore”. If you need more reasons to go buy this album, here they are, but you really don’t.
Firstly, I bought this record expecting a good solid pop record. What I got was a lot more like a good solid rock record. It’s a lot like meeting someone who says humbly “I’m in the medical field” and you’re thinking, cool they’re a nurse, and then it turns out they’re a neurosurgeon. There are elements of Joan Jet, Floyd, The Beatles, and yet, “Mondo Amore” could appeal even to your average college girl who can’t stop humming the latest “Kesha” single. I can’t remember the last time I bought a new release and thought, ‘this record is a complete concept. Top to bottom, can’t skip a song. It’s a whole work of art.’ It’s that way. There’s so much continuity. Abbey Road continuity. Don’t you dare push the next button or put it on shuffle. You’ll ruin the whole experience.
The tone of the songwriting is wonderfully dark and yet, at times, lighthearted. Bittersweet. And just when it borders on becoming estrogen soaked, Atkins comes out with that belting powerful bellow, tinged with oddly sweet vibrato. Eat it, K.D. Lang. ‘The Tower’ Is maybe her best vocal performance on the whole album, though none of them slack. If I wasn’t sold by ‘My baby Don’t lie’ (which I was) by the time I got to ‘Heavy Boots’ I was. Then something funny happened. I thought the album was about to loose steam. For a brief second. But as the song unfolded, it was clear it was to be exactly the opposite. There is a sparseness in that track that has more impact than the rest of the album (saying a lot, considering how tastefully lush the orchestrations are in every other track) Clever engineering and good equipment choices are obvious throughout, though they are most notable in Hotel Plaster. It would have been very easy to ruin that ballad with a few inappropriate textures, a slightly off amp choice, not enough reverb, too much, the wrong mic on the backup vocals. But instead, they are all so perfectly done. It doesn’t take much of a music geek to appreciate how delicate of a balance it must have been to not step on that song, while making it in to somewhat of a power ballad. And how easy is it really to write love songs that don’t blow?
Okay enough, just go buy it. From Boo Boos. Good records don’t come out every day.