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Nicole Atkins & the Sea

Who?Nicole Atkins, a native of coastal Neptune, New Jersey, and her band, aptly named “the Sea,” distinguish themselves from the anti-folk scene in much the way Atkins’ favorite director, David Lynch, distinguishes himself in film: Employing dark imagery to illuminate beauty. The band’s debut six-song EP, Bleeding Diamonds, is just a snack-size version of the upcoming full-length due out early next year. Atkins’ haunting voice echoes themes of destruction, loss, and longing, but she decidedly places a single star in the foreboding black sky, creating just enough light to guide you through.

What’s the Deal?Although Atkins doesn’t consider herself a political artist, the title track was conceived after watching news footage of bombs exploding in the night skies of Iraq. Dancing between delicate Radiohead-channeling riffs and grandiose instrumental explosions, Atkins sings, “The sky looks like its bleeding diamonds / Smoke looks just like a thousand garlands,” creating a graceful verbal pirouette through the war zone. “Carouselle” mourns the recent destruction of Asbury Park’s Palace amusement park, a historical landmark and staple of the Jersey shoreline for over a century. The jaunty piano inspires a visual of old silent films, with black-and-white scenes of a wrecking ball meeting an old building in a pile of dust.

Fun FactA self-proclaimed “metal head,” Atkins was terrified as a child when her parents took her to a Donny and Marie Osmond show in Atlantic City. During the second set, Donny looked down at the seven-year old and asked, “What’s your name sweetheart?” She answered reluctantly, and before she knew it she was sitting on a stool being serenaded with Puppy Love. “Everyone in the audience was like ‘awwww’ until I started making gagging faces and giving him devil horns, then everyone started cracking up,” Atkins told “He turned around and was like ‘what are you doing?!’ so I gave him another devil face. It was awesome.” KRISTINA ENSMINGER

Now Hear This: Nicole Atkins & the Sea – “Neptune City”WINDOWS | REAL | QUICKTIME

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