Rock classics modernized with an empowering purpose
“No angels, no saints, no heathens” is a lyric Nicole Atkins sings, resembling “Imagine” by John Lennon. These lyric stages the record as a wake-up call to everyone to not judge or spread hate, but have an open mind to accept people for who they are. Nicole Atkins has the aesthetic of Stevie Nicks and the sound of Roy Orbison, citing “1950’s crooner and 1960’s psychedelic” and 1970’s soul, as her aspiration. This has led her to further merge the country and blues mixed genre. Growing up in Neptune, New Jersey, Atkins developed a love for The Ronettes, The Beach Boys and Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas. After learning to play the piano and guitar herself, she began playing gigs at local coffee shops. As a three-time Ashbury Award Recipient and an ASCAP Foundation Award Winner, Nicole Atkins has just released her fifth studio album, Italian Ice.
The album artwork features a simple, white background with a hand tossing down dice. With this country-rock and soul record, Atkins does not want to recreate another retro tribute, but she knows the importance of keeping older influences throughout newer works, or else the classics would disappear.
“AM Gold” showcases smooth swing music with sleek saxophone riffs and a soulful belt, shouting “Oh life!” Atkins kept the classic sound of background singers but modernized it to be solely her own voice layered multiple times. This track is heavily influenced by the battles people are facing today with the COVID-19 pandemic and racism in America. Atkins sings, “We’re stranded in the garbage of Eden … Ain’t gonna find it on a screen.” These powerful lyrics display that humans are in a beautiful world but destroy it with hatred while being distracted by devices, rather than fixing the problems all humans created.
“Mind Eraser” is a blend of soulful bass percussion and contemporary snare drums with swirly background vocals. Atkins discusses feeling trapped in a nightmare, with her mind on repeat, catastrophizing situations, as she sings, “When you spend time in a lion’s cage, you never go, you never go to sleep again.”
“Domino” is a classic funky track with soulful bass plucking, smooth beats and angelic falsettos. On the contrary, “Never Going Home” is an upbeat, country, ranting-style song in which Atkins heatedly questions how the Bad Seeds were banned for life from Japan. This launches Atkins to examine herself and all the humiliating, shameful decisions she has made in her life, saying “You wouldn’t know me if you saw me, Mama.”
Italian Ice is a whirlwind of eclectic musical accomplishments: creating Carole King inspired ballads, songs of her persona told through a Broadway musical style track and praying to Saint Dymphna in a St. George’s Cathedral, as an ode to a Morrissey-enthused song.