Under Review: Nicole Atkins – Mondo Amore

Much like Lykke Li, Nicole Atkins is an artist who I was lucky enough to find out about around the time of her debut. To be fair, Neptune City didn’t come out all that long ago, but so much has happened to Atkins in the time since that album’s release that Mondo Amore could be seen as a kind of second debut. Bumped from her label, backing band and boyfriend, Atkins’ latest persona is that of a fiery, lovelorn torch singer. Mondo Amore is much more aggressively bombastic than its predecessor, though Atkins’ lyrics feature plenty of the dramatic sentimentality that defines her work. As it deserves to, Atkins’ soaring voice steals the spotlight on each and every one of the album’s ten songs. Whether she’s discovering that a relationship just isn’t going to work out (“Cry Cry Cry”) or somberly longing after someone who’s no longer beside her (“Heavy Boots”), Atkins varies her intonation from blazing wails to intimate coos. Neptune City presented Atkins as a girl out of time, forever penning songs from a 1960s that never was. Mondo Amore finds Atkins toughening up without becoming too intimidating.

Atkins certainly hasn’t skimped on melodies and sonic flourishes this time around, either. “My Baby Don’t Lie” begins as a gritty barroom stomp before its seamless transition into a sweeping ballad. “This Is For Love” could’ve probably fit on Neptune City, its Spector-evoking arrangement escalating to a stirring chorus. Atkins gets her new band to rock out on “You Come To Me,” and the album closes with “The Tower,” whose mammoth refrain really sneaks up. Though the hooks are more subtle than on Neptune City, Mondo Amore is another example of a great second album. It amps up the emotions and revelry of Neptune City without rendering that album unnecessary. With Mondo Amore, Atkins has complimented her debut in a way that few artists these days would have the self-discipline to do. She’s not trying to outdo herself, but she is definitely moving forward.

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~ by E. on March 11, 2011.

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