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Nicole Atkins, ‘Neptune City’ (Columbia)

When the Ronettes walked in the rain, they barely noticed the drops; Nicole Atkins, however, sounds ready to drown. On her debut, the New Jersey singer/songwriter coolly distills the romanticism of ’60s girl groups into dark, baleful country pop. But the songs swell and crest in identical structure, leaving her gorgeous voice (equal parts Roy Orbison and Jenny Lewis) to battle the overproduction. Only the title track offers a respite, floating gently on sparse strings. Atkins should trust her voice; without the show-tune drama behind it, her vulnerability would be more convincing.

Now Hear This: Nicole Atkins – “The Way It Is” DOWNLOAD MP3