Review Summary: A blend of sweet summer sounds.
Nicole Atkins wastes no opportunity with Italian Ice
. She assembled a group of her “best musical friends” that includes Jim Sclavunos and David Sherman (of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), McKenzie Smith (St. Vincent, Midlake), Binky Griptite (The Dap-Kings), and Spooner Oldham/David Hood (Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section). Surrounding herself with help both friendly and talented, she split her songwriting approach open like a ravine, crafting a piece that is all at once retro-60s, symphonic indie, garage rock, and earth-quaking soul pop. Blended together, Italian Ice
is every bit the sweet treat that its title suggests.
Through all of the stylistic transformations and shifts that occur dynamically, Atkins’ voice is the star. She effortlessly adapts to each genre attempted, playing every role from soothing songstress to glamorous rock star and sounding the part every time. Her impressive range makes it all possible, but it’s her vocal dexterity and knowing touch that enables it to flow effortlessly. She never sounds out of her wheelhouse, an impressive feat considering the musical terrain covered. Despite the creative range that Italian Ice
displays, Nicole is at her best when she’s belting these notes out – as she does on the cautiously optimistic closer ‘In the Splinters’ – where she proclaims, “on any other night I wish the world would end…but not this one.”
Her self-described cast of “misfits” comprising the band are able to keep Italian Ice
’s ever-shifting tectonic plates sounding cohesive. Whether it is the jazzy undertones to opener ‘Am Gold’, the tropical sway of ‘Captain’ (featuring Spoon’s Britt Daniel), or the wistful strings and orchestral swell of the penultimate ‘These Old Roses’, the band doesn’t disappoint. Atkins adds to her impressive guest list on ‘Never Going Home Again’, an Americana-styled mid-tempo piano rocker that features Seth Avett (of The Avett Brothers) alongside John Paul White (The Civil Wars) and Erin Rae. It’s truly a fusion of talents on Italian Ice
, where the varying accents and swirling styles feel like a snow globe in which Nicole Atkins is at the center.
is Atkins’ boldest and most diverse offering yet. Whether it’s the electronic disco-funk of lead single ‘Domino’ or her confident strides into country, Nicole finds herself avoiding stagnancy while also tackling ambitious musical expansion with aplomb. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this record is that it doesn’t even sound like the genre-spanner that it is because everything is stitched together so seamlessly. It feels effortless – not just by Atkins but somehow by everyone involved as well, as if they’ve all had the same musical dream and were just waiting for the right time to showcase it. Italian Ice
is the product of a talented pool of contributors who simultaneously lift Atkins up while still allowing her tremendous vocals to remain the focal point. It’s the strongest album that Nicole has put forth – a gem that hopefully will not go overlooked.