Between mega-produced pop tunes that follow a Top 40 template and songs that practically show off their software-generated beats, there's hardly any mystery in music anymore. Nicole Atkins is filled with mystery. Her voice is so rich and syrupy, it could coat all the pancakes in the world. More important, Atkins' music sounds little like anything else out there these days. It's simultaneously defiant and vulnerable — mixing pop, country, and Broadway bravado. As a kid, Atkins listened to Cream records while her classmates were poring over the latest New Kids on the Block cassette. Her influences range from Traffic to the Jayhawks. Her own material reflects this wide array of favorites. Think of a 29-year-old female version of Roy Orbison, and you have a pretty good idea where Atkins' operatic pop comes from. The New Jersey native's debut album, Neptune City, is a sentimental and nostalgic look at her beloved hometown. Her ornamental croon and swirling strings will leave you enthralled.
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