Nicole Atkins - “It’s Only Chemistry”
From the album Slow Phaser (2014)
A couple of weeks ago, following the airing of the Grammys, I was talking with my folks about the telecast. They had watched it, and I hadn’t bothered, since most of the music I care about doesn’t rise to a level of sales that would register in Grammys-Land. After they pointed out that they didn’t recognize most of the names of the acts being awarded, and that most of the music they did hear was awful, my folks lamented that all of today’s music was just dreadful.
After some gentle teasing where I told them they sounded like cliche, grumpy old people (“But that’s exactly what we are!” they teased back), I suggested that there absolutely is good contemporary music out there - great music, even - but that you’ve gotta be willing to seek it out. If you’re willing to look, though, you can be rewarded with some real pleasures. Like with the latest release by Nicole Atkins, for example.
I stumbled upon this musician a couple of years ago, by way of Time Magazine and their coverage of South By Southwest, and I was hooked. I’ve posted a few of her tracks over the past three years, and I was pleased to hear through the grapevine a few weeks back that she was coming out with new music early this year. The album, Slow Phaser, was just released last week, and it is beautiful. Atkins’ strength remains her incredibly soulful, melodic vocals, and elegantly crafted songs that sit somewhere between classic rock and chamber-pop. On the new disc, she adds a happy, disco beat to several of the songs, hymnal organs swirling on others, and on “It’s Only Chemistry,” a happy, sing-along backing chorus, banjo plucking - and always that strong lead vocal, cutting through everything. It’s instantly catchy, the disc as a whole holds together well and stands up to repeated listening, and it proves to me as much as anything else that sometimes the best music out there is the stuff that’s still being newly released.
All you have to do is listen.