A neon noir tour de force of hi-def late-night pop, Slow Phaser marks Nicole Atkins’ most ingenious and indelibly modern collection to date. Released via Atkins’ own label Oh’Mercy! Records (Thirty Tigers/RED), the album is a milestone for the acclaimed singer/songwriter, her restless creativity fully realized via the addition of some surprising colors to her already diverse paintbox. Songs like the sultry “Red Ropes” and the poptastic first single, “Girl You Look Amazing” positively swirl with day-glo danceability, the bright hues setting Atkins’ distinctive creative voice in a luminous and undeniable new light. Bittersweet yet life affirming, Slow Phaser is Nicole Atkins at her confident and unpredictable best – spirited, sexy, and determinedly forward thinking.
“I wanted to make something that no one’s ever heard before,” she says, “including myself.”
A charismatic and committed live performer, Atkins followed 2011’s adventurous Mondo Amore with a long year on the road. Upon her return, the New Jersey-based artist began to rethink her overall approach. Atkins went on creative walkabout, visiting various musician friends across the country and starting a productive collaboration with veteran drummer/producer Jim Sclavunos (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Cramps, Teenage Jesus & The Jerks). The two clicked immediately, penning three songs on the very first day they set to work.
“Jim really helped me articulate a lot of what I was feeling,” she says. “He helped me make the things I was writing sound more like when I just wrote songs for myself. He taught me a lot about writing… again.”
Luckily – or perhaps not – Atkins was in Memphis when Superstorm Sandy wreaked its havoc on the Jersey Shore and her familial home. As she pondered her next move, fate rang long distance. Hearing of her recent travails, producer Tore Johansson – with whom Atkins collaborated on her breakthrough 2007 debut, Neptune City – invited Atkins to come record at his residential Malmö, Sweden studio.
Atkins packed up two years of songs, poetry, and journals, not to mention the hundreds of beat-based musical ideas stored on her iPhone. With Johansson’s able assistance, she devised a compelling new sonic approach, melding psychedelic energy, prog rock adventurism, after hours disco ambience, and the raw emotional purity of the finest country soul.
“It sounds large but not cluttered,” she says. “We only used four instruments and tracked everything live. Instead of layering on a bunch of strings and horns and bells, the idea was to try to make everything have such complex melodies that they fit together like a puzzle. Every little bit counts.”
The result is remarkably vivid and varied, with songs like the opening “Who Killed The Moonlight?” blazing with transcendent pop hooks and floor-filling rhythms unlike anything Atkins has done before. She further pushed her songwriting by penning a series of wry, candid songs casting a mordant eye at pretentious boyfriends (“It’s Only Chemistry”), ponderous hipsters (“Cool People”), and the endless highway that is her perpetual home (“Gasoline Bride”). Slow Phaser comes to its poignant emotional close with “The Worst Hangover” – replete with images of shattered disco balls glittering on the Sandy-swept Jersey shoreline – and the sparse, powerful “Above As Below,” which finds our heroine alone at sea, “surrendering to the void, just me, seagulls, and the gods.”
Inventive and irresistible, Slow Phaser was greeted by the most ecstatic notices of Atkins’ much-admired career, with the New York Daily News’ Jim Farber declaring it “a super-catchy, highly danceable argument for Atkins to be seen as one of the great swaggering women of rock. In her snarky huff, Atkins recalls Chrissie Hynde. In her New York mix of hauteur and humor, she brings to mind Debbie Harry… Her voice ties it all together, with a sound sure enough to let the vulnerability of her words proudly show… Gleaming in tone, piercing in volume and unstoppable in attitude, it rips right through you.”
Elsewhere, USA Today applauded Atkins’ “penchant for creating enticingly mysterious pop-rock.” “When Nicole Atkins sings, she sounds like Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline and Janis Joplin all rolled into one voice,” enthused NPR (with host Scott Simon complimenting her for possessing “a voice that could melt the heart of a devil. Sense of humor dryer than a drought…”) the Boston Globe praised Slow Phaser’s “immaculate popcraft,” while the New Yorker singled out “Girl You Look Amazing” as “the rarest of things: a nutritious confection.”
In the UK, the Daily Mirror awarded Slow Phaser four stars, noting the album “bursts with attitude and vitality… (Atkins’) lustrous vocals, irresistible swagger and compositional ingenuity excel here.” Atkins has been “blessed with a siren voice of innate and intricate grace and restraint,” noted the Sunday Times, adding, “Buy this.”
As if Slow Phaser alone were not enough, Slow Phaser: Expanded Deluxe Edition arrives accompanied by Live At The Masonic Temple Theatre, a full-length concert set recorded July 29th at the historic Detroit venue whilst Atkins served as special guest on Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ 2014 North American tour. The recording offers a fresh view of Atkins’ myriad gifts, casting reconfigured versions of tracks from Slow Phaser alongside fan favorites from both Neptune City and Mondo Amore.
Where Atkins’ own triumphant Slow Phaser headline tour featured backing from a five member ensemble, necessity demanded she travel alongside Cave with a leaner, more efficient set-up comprised of herself, guitarist Dave Rosen, and drummer Chris Donofrio. The trio stripped away some of the intricate, inventive instrumentation found on her studio recordings and discovered an altogether different approach towards her own music.
“The sound that we made was larger than any sound I’ve ever gotten from a five or six piece band,” Atkins says. “Simplifying the music, bringing it down to where there’s only three things happening, it really just cut away all the fat. When you hear ‘The Tower’ or ‘Red Ropes’ performed live by just three people, it’s powerful stuff. With the three piece, all of my songs sound classic and evil.”
Though not a power trio in the traditional sense, the three musicians amp up the passion and energy in Atkins’ already intense songcraft, employing space and stark simplicity to set her extraordinary voice at the forefront like never before. Live At The Masonic Temple Theatre immediately joins the shortlist of archetypal live albums, its force, directness and muscular performance not unlike some lost soundboard recording unearthed from Atkins’ dearly loved golden age of 70s rock ‘n’ roll.
“I think back to all those classic rock live records and the bootlegs I used to collect,” she says. “A friend heard this and said it feels like it was recorded at The Garden in another time.”
Though her band may now be stripped down, Atkins’ always-hectic schedule remains full on. “The more that we play together, the cooler it gets,” she says. “Doing that tour really helped me to figure out where I want to be and where I want to go. I mean, I love my records, but this is exactly what I sound like.”
NICOLE ATKINS PAYS TRIBUTE TO DAVID BOWIE WITH STUNNING RENDITION OF “HEROES” IN COLLABORATION WITH POSTMODERN JUKEBOX
PMJ TO DONATE PROCEEDS FROM SINGLE TO CANCER RESEARCH
Los Angeles, CA (February 4, 2016) – Nicole Atkins has teamed up with Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox to pay tribute to the late great David Bowie with a stunning rendition of “Heroes. The artists are also celebrating World Cancer Day by donating proceeds from the single to support cancer research. Fans can view the video HERE and purchase the song on iTunes by clicking HERE.
“I was thinking of ways to honor the incredible legacy of David Bowie and got a call from my friend Nicole Atkins,” says Bradlee. “She has the kind of voice that expresses pure emotion in every note, and I knew instantly that I had found the right vocalist for this tribute. As we discussed song choices, we talked about Bowie’s fight with cancer, and how cancer has affected the lives of so many around us. So this performance of ‘Heroes’ is dedicated not only to Bowie, but to all the heroes out there – whether family, friend, or stranger – that have battled cancer.”
“Scott and I used to sing jazz standards together back in the days when we were in Sleep No More in NYC, and we’ve been waiting for the right time to record something together,” adds Atkins. “We each have a parent that are cancer survivors and have so many friends that have been similarly affected by this disease. After David Bowie’s passing it seemed a fitting tribute and the right time to come together and record one of his songs and help raise money for cancer research.”
Created by Bradlee, Postmodern Jukebox is a genre-busting, rotating collective of performers who have built a massive following by reimagining modern pop hits with a vintage twist. They’ve amassed over 400 million YouTube views and 1.75 million subscribers, have performed on “Good Morning America,” topped iTunes/Billboard charts, been covered by NPR, Mother Jones, Huffington Post and the Los Angeles Times and drawn praise from the likes of Beyonce and Meghan Trainor. They’ve crossed musical boundaries and generations with their distinct take on songs originated by artists ranging from Lady Gaga and The Strokes to Katy Perry and the White Stripes. Their torch-like cover of Radiohead’s seminal ‘90s hit “Creep”—called “stunning” by the LA Times—has racked up over 14.2 million views. Their version of Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” has drawn over 14.9 million views and Lorde said their rendition of “Royals,” which has been viewed over 14.5 million times, is her favorite.
INCLUDING HEADLINE SHOWS AND MAY TOUR SUPPORTING OLD 97’S
10 – Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom