Sound — 5
Since stepping at the helm of an initially indie rock group from Vermont, Grace Potter has become readily recognized throughout the world of rock music for her contributions to the band that shares her own name. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals have regularly continued to release new music as a band, including the most recent "The Lion the Beast the Beat" from 2012 which remains their highest charting effort to date. Although most activity from within the band has arrived from Potter in recent years, most notable of which were a pair of solo dates supporting The Rolling Stones this summer, the Nocturnals have yet to declare anything similar to a hiatus. In the meantime, Grace Potter is stepping out away from the blues rock band she's long been associated with to try her hand at a career as a solo artist.
Although her solo debut "Midnight" is quite unlike anything Potter has previously done with the Nocturnals, there are similarities to be found throughout this twelve track presentation. Much as the Nocturnals have crossed between indie rock to hard rock to country and blues territory over the course of their four studio albums, "Midnight" alternates across varying genres of pop and electronic sounds with Potter's distinctive and compelling vocals leading the way. The main conflict that surfaces on "Midnight" is the overt emphasis that's directed towards the use of electronic elements. The percussion work on tracks such as "Hot to the Touch" or "Alive Tonight" (or honestly, pretty much anywhere you place the needle) overwhelms any of the remaining instrumentation and nearly even Potter's singing. This is quite a statement, considering Grace Potter is a powerhouse vocalist and gives it her all on this premiere solo album.
We can pinpoint at least the majority of this blame onto Eric Valentine, whose production really downplays the complexity of the songwriting structure in some of these songs. Take for example "Empty Heart," a song which has some decent acoustic guitar playing upon first glance yet ends out buried beneath a conclave of electronic elements. This isn't even the fault of the electronic music genre; comparisons to Britney Spears, Spice Girls, or Prince could be voiced by way of comparison, but even then the mixes on those artists' records are more accommodating and easier on the ears then what we find on this album. The grit of rock and roll that Potter has always attributed in some way to her studio and live performances is lost beneath a seemingly avoidable consequence of having the wrong producer at the helm, which results in a rather disappointing wall of sound as opposed to a unique and frequently rewarding solo effort.
Lyrics — 6
Grace Potter remains a dynamic vocalist who's capable at venturing into nearly any musical territory she desires, as indicated by her work with the Nocturnals and this solo debut. Her assertive singing on the aforementioned "Hot to the Touch" and "Delirious" are commendable in their broad range and emotionful execution, but again, a percentage of that performance is lost beneath a concavity of synthesizer rhythms that drowns out the remainder of the composition.
Overall Impression — 5
Grace Potter's debut album as a solo artist "Midnight" is a strong example of a good studio effort gone astray because of a poor post-production decision. The end result found here is more similar to that of house music than a Potter album solely because of the work of Valentine, which is heavily disappointing. Hopefully the next time we hear solo material from Potter, it will have been overseen by a different producer in the studio and the benefits should be apparent.