Nicole Atkins: ‘Mondo Amore’

After enduring personal and professional hardships (finding a new label, breaking up with her boyfriend, and the loss of her backing band) , singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins resurfaces with Mondo Amore, the follow-up to her 2007 critically-acclaimed debut, Neptune City. These challenges seem to have provided ample material for Atkins’ sophomore effort, which runs rampant with tales of romantic triumphs and tragedies. No longer harnessed by the boundaries of a major label, Atkins has proudly stated this is the album she has always wanted to make.

This new collection begins with the dark, brooding “Vultures,” which sets the stage for the complex and multi-layered assemblage of musical narratives presented here. “Careful where you walk/Remain in the light/Watch where death resides/Finds you from all sides,” Atkins warns as she seductively draws the listener inside her mysterious and ominous musical labyrinth. Then without warning, she switches gears and breaks into the highly spirited “Cry Cry Cry,” which is surprisingly upbeat despite its deceptive title. This is the first sign of the roller coaster ride the album holds in store, as this musical tug of war continues throughout its duration.

Slowing things down again is “Hotel Plaster.” This ethereal ballad’s true asset is its haunting melody, which results in an effective emotional interplay between the music and lyrics. “Think of me in a prison of hotel plaster/Far from the shelter of your side/Take me back to the rocking horse/Pray for answers/Hold on to our love,” Atkins implores. She then rips into rocker ‘You Come To Me” with raw abandon, and this could easily be considered her most rousing vocal performance to date.

The sexy, sultriness of the mid-tempo “You Were The Devil” sounds like it could be used to score a Quentin Tarantino movie, with such emotive laments as “Lay down your love he commanded/And with those words I sealed the fate that was mine,” and “I gave my breath so I could suffocate your fire/Still it’s the hate in your words I came to admire.” All of this comes to a close with the nearly six-minute cinematic “The Tower,” which provides a fitting conclusion to this moody and worthy addition to Atkins’ evolving body of work as she sings the final words, “Wish I could’ve told you goodbye.”

Mondo Amore demonstrates growth in this captivating artists’ songwriting, shifting back and forth between two distinct musical personalities. One is dark and morose, while the other is strong and aggressive. At times, Amore sounds like a modern Goth-rock romantic tragedy, full of heartbreak and despair, but the pain Atkins expresses in her lyrics ultimately results in the album’s most pleasurable moments.

© 2011 ForASong Media, LLC

‘The JaneDear Girls’

Music City’s new duo, The JaneDear Girls, boldly announce their arrival onto the country music scene with their euphoric self-titled debut. The female twosome’s sound is a breath of fresh air and a welcome addition to the current risk-adverse and cynical musical climate. Their unique brand of effervescent, girl-power country pop belongs somewhere in the musical landscape between Shania Twain and Taylor Swift. Hence, this most definitely will not be well received by traditional country enthusiasts.

They consist of Utah born Susie Brown and Texan Danelle Leverett, who met while independently seeking their musical destinies in Nashville. After writing songs together, the two artists decided to team up as partners, and The JaneDear Girls were born. Shortly after their formation, Muzik Mafia member John Rich took them under his wing and became the girls’ musical mentor, as well as producer of their eponymous debut.

Their album begins with lead-off hit single “Wildflower,” which was released in 2010 and has already earned them an ACM nomination in the Top New Vocal Duo or Group category. The second track “Shotgun Girl,” sounds poised and ready to become the follow up to their preceding hit. “Crank it up Waylon, Willie and Merle / I’m your shotgun girl,” they sing in the energetic tune, which seems destined to become a favorite on summertime radio playlists.

“Saturdays In September,” co-penned by mega-hit writer Jeffrey Steele, is the album’s one and only full-fledged ballad, and includes a hook-laden chorus filled with rich harmony vocals. “In those up-all-night Friday nights / phone calls and long goodbyes / reading and writing love letters,” the girls sing in unison. Other noteworthy tracks include “Pretender,” and the instantly likeable and aptly titled “Sing Along.” The disc is rife with plenty of fiddle, banjo, and cranked up electric guitar throughout the 11 tracks presented here, all of which were co-written by the duo along with some notable songsmiths including Marcus Hummon and Jason Reeves.

It’s a musical party of an album steeped in lyrics concerning affair of the heart topics such as: love, heartbreak and innocence lost, which is delivered with a youthful zest and zeal. Upon first listen it may sound like nothing more than pop fluff, but underneath the layers of production is a collection of carefully crafted gems with an endearing quality that will most likely be gobbled up and revered by its target audience.

© 2011 ForASong Media, LLC

Danielle Bloom: ‘Meet Me In The Middle’

Meet Me in the Middle

Danielle Bloom provides a bounteous amount of roof-shattering vocals and ear-splitting guitars throughout the retro hard rocker’s new release, Meet Me In The Middle. Her sound is a throwback to classic rock, with a trifling sum of modern elements interspersed throughout the mix, allowing her to create a musical identity of her own. Imagine Pat Benatar backed by Stone Temple Pilots, a musical permutation that gives imaginative music fans a pretty good idea of Ms. Bloom’s sound.

This disc is loaded with plenty of raw, gritty rock, and Bloom has the vocal chops to pull it off successfully. “It’s all for you,” Bloom belts out in the album’s uninhibited opening track, “I Give Up,” which ends with a foreboding synth line.

“Tell me why you gotta lie/to get in my head/to get in my bed,” she demands in the bad-ass rocker, “Tell Me Why.” The preacher’s daughter pulls off this song flawlessly, and with great vocal skill, which Bloom makes seem almost effortless. “The thought of forever is just a dream,” she continues with ample attitude on what is easily the album’s best and most powerful track. The energy continues with the rhythmic funkiness of “You,” in which Bloom concedes, “I’m never gonna let you take away the things that I worked to get/I just hate being used.” These are just some of the lyrical examples this rock diva skillfully articulates, as she confesses to lessons learned in her songs of heartbreak and fortitude, which are recurring themes throughout Bloom’s melodic avowal.

Disappointingly, things begin to unravel after the recording’s first three powerful and adrenaline-charged tunes. The track list begins to bog down a bit with the lackluster “Believe” and “Revolution,” but the momentum returns somewhat with the title song “Meet Me In The Middle.” However, after the album’s energy has waned, it never seems to return to its full intensity. “I Don’t Care” sounds out of place and disrupts the mood and flow of the record. The power ballad, “Another Night,” hints at becoming a great song, but the melody isn’t strong enough to entirely hit the mark.

The song choices included here suggest Bloom is a better vocalist than songwriter. After such a solid and promising start, Meet Me In The Middle loses its focus throughout the second half, which ultimately results in an unsatisfying and disjointed conclusion. And while Middle may not be extraordinarily groundbreaking or epic, Danielle Bloom handles the material with great aplomb, which proposes she has the potential to blossom into an electrifying artist in the not-so-distant future.

Copyright ©2011 The Murfreesboro Pulse