Mondo Amore, the second full-length album from Nicole Atkins, was one of the album releases I had been looking forward to for 2011. She’s quickly become a favorite of mine for her ability to create songs that resonate with the listener long after the music stops playing.
The album is Atkins’ first with Razor & Tie and it also finds the majority of the tracks a collaboration with a small handful of songwriters including Austin-based Robert Harrison (of Cotton Mather), Dan Wilson (of the band Semisonic) and Dan Chen, who also served as the album’s engineer.
As a whole, Mondo Amore is more of what you’d expect from the songwriter; a powerful, evoking voice married to dramatic and incredibly layered song arrangements. Where at times Neptune City felt like a densely dreamy and theatrical ride to the highs of love, this album carries a darker, more gut-wrenching and hopeless look at the pangs of love and its ultimate dissolution. This is immediately apparent with ‘Vultures,’ the album’s first single and its opening cut – a deeply churned standout which perfectly sets the theme for the rest of the songs that follow.
On ‘Cry Cry Cry,’ the blending of upbeat percussion and inviting choral background gives the song a starkly lighter feel even if the song’s message of misplaced trust contradicts the buoyant energy of its delivery.
Atkins gorgeously delivers ‘Hotel Plaster,’ one of the album’s finer moments; a pleading love song that sets its hooks in early and sounds as if it would have fit snugly on Neptune City.
I have mixed feelings for ‘My Baby Don’t Lie,’ a thick and gritty foot-stomper that arrives at the album’s middle. Its sheer infectiousness is unexpected and immensely satisfying, but its brassy, flat presentation is almost a distraction of the record’s overall tone.
The smokey and blues-filled ‘War Is Hell’ and the deep pounding soulfulness of ‘Heavy Boots’ are additional standouts; Atkins’ vocals wonderfully soaring to the dark clouds overhead.
When the album closes with the climactic ‘The Tower,’ the listener is left with a strange feeling of bittersweet exhaustion, as if all the heavy emotions that are carried throughout these songs are finally spent and the settling dust is all that is left.
From beginning to end, Mondo Amore serves as a remarkable follow-up to Neptune City; a noteworthy effort that provides further testament to Atkins amazing abilities as both a songwriter and vocalist.
Mondo Amore will be available on February 8, 2011 and Atkins is currently touring in its support. For a list of upcoming tour dates, please visit her official site.