Deep and dark describes Nicole Atkins debut disc, “Neptune City,” which dropped 14 years ago. It’s a bittersweet ode to her New Jersey town just west of Asbury Park. The lush, visceral songs caught the ear of the music industry. Atkins signed with Columbia Records. The cerebral singer-songwriter could have continued to mine the world of smoky retro tunes with her next project, “Mondo Amore,” but she veered in a different direction.
Each of her five albums stand on their own, including her latest, “Italian Ice,” which is a varied project that is nostalgic. There’s 1960s soul dripping all over “St. Dymphna,” acoustic country with “Never Going Home Again,” and the album kicks off with the infectious “AM Gold.”
“I really put all of my musical influences on one record,” Atkins said while calling from her Nashville home. “I have psychedelic rock, Muscle Shoals and Judy Garland. It’s an unusual mix.”
“Italian Ice” is a throwback to how albums were made back in the day, which differs from many contemporary EPs that are often filled with a single and four songs that sound like the featured track.
“I’ve always been very record oriented,” Atkins said. “I love albums. I love albums that are deep, and my favorites are ‘Tommy’ from the Who and Pink Floyd’s ‘Meddle.’ Singles and EPs are fine for people who don’t buy records anymore, but I’m not that kind of person as a fan or as a musician.”
“AM Gold” is the most accessible song on the album, and it nearly didn’t make the cut. “I wrote that song six years ago,” Atkins said. “It sounds like an opener, but I almost scrapped it.”
Atkins, 42, who performs Thursday at Lucky You Lounge, will showcase tunes from each of her five albums. When she takes a break, Atkins plans to write a musical based on Neptune City. “It’s loosely based on a family from the Jersey shore,” Atkins said. “It’s three chords and the truth. I go by that old saying that you sing about what you know. I’ll take our family stories and find some magic in them.”
Atkins is looking forward to mentally checking back to her native Jersey shore, where she cut her teeth 20 years ago.
“I remember when I was starting out, and I wanted to play Asbury Park,” Atkins recalled. “I said to a guy (Scott Stamper) who owns a club there (the Saint) that I wanted to play.
“And he told me that they only do original music. I told him that I have originals, and I was booked. I had two weeks to write 45 minutes worth of songs. I came up with the material and played. Because of that, I’m where I am today, which is in a good place.”
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