Sound — 9
Singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins has the melodic-pop coolants of Nina Gordon and the soft fluid spreads synonymous with Stacy Clark. Born in New Jersey's Neptune City just outside of Asbury Park, Atkins titled her debut album on Columbia Records after her birthplace. The tracks have creamy guitar tones and opulent string patterns that bounce in and out of the melodic scripts like in Together We're Both Alone and Cool Enough. She tells in a press release that the songs are reflections of the stories behind the people of Neptune City making the songs deeply personal and vividly real with dream-like figments that appear in the keyboard sequences, which etches canals through the balladry sweeps of The Way It Is. Atkins' vocals swoon across the melodic-pop meadows and steeples lining War Torn then hugs the dips and crests forming along the upbeat rhythmic flaps of Love Surreal. The exotic tones and lacy fringes of the title track add to the melody's dreamy mystic, and the flaming chorus parts of Brooklyn's On Fire give the gentle guitar links and calm tempo, periods of massive thrusts. The bowed guitar chords form pillars along the deep bass grooves of Kill The Headlights brewing a heady mix with Atkins' vocal rises, and the sarong of guitar curves in Party's Over are melodically trimmed to coincide with the airy string arrangements. Neptune City is an album that is completely glossed in melodic textures from it's barest moments to it's garish layers. It is so well polished that you would totally believe that fairies crafted these songs.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics feel like they come right out of a romantic film like in Maybe Tonight when Atkins sings, I know we'll meet again/ Maybe tonight, just tell me where and when. Hope springs eternal for Atkins in the tune The Way It Is when she asserts, Don't tell me my love is not the one that I want/ That he's not the one I need/ I'd rather find out for myself. Her obstinate standpoint is contagious in these songs. The lyrics are the words of a dreamer and in some ways that is what Neptune City and Asbury Park were -- places where you could live out your dreams, but the dreams turned into dust for Neptune City. Atkins' songs scoop up the dust in her hands and stubbornly she wills it to be what she wants.
Overall Impression — 9
Produced by Tore Johansson (Cardigans, Franz Ferdinand, OK GO, New Order), the album is all original material with melodies that show the past on it's sleeves illustrating images that have a fleshiness to them like taking vignettes straight from someone's life. The music flatters Atkins' melodic timbres like a halo that glows around her voice. The music has a dream-pop aura with orchestral and rock sensibilities webbed in modern-pop flares that are satisfying to the senses. The music keeps your head in the clouds and your feet firmly planted in reality.