- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2008

Nicole Atkins describes her music as “pop noir,” a self-appointed genre that references her love for Phil Spector, ‘60s girl groups and melodrama. She croons with the wide vibrato of Roy Orbison, but the young songwriter also takes influence from current trends. Finding a balance between the sounds of her parents’ records and her musical peers, she occupies her own niche as a classic crooner tailored to the digital age.

Miss Atkins released her debut album, the lushly orchestrated “Neptune City,” in late 2007. Inspired by her hometown of Neptune, N.J., the record spins tales of romance and childhood nostalgia. Miss Atkins took the cinematic material on the road, planning concerts in America and Europe while peppering her sets with the occasional cover song.

Four of those covers make up her newest release, the aptly titled “Nicole Atkins Digs Other People’s Songs.” In keeping with her admiration for the past and present, the EP features renditions of songs by the Doors, the Mamas and the Papas, the Church and Nada Surf.

“We just wanted to give our fans something between our last album and our next album - something to tide them over,” she explains.

Miss Atkins and her backup band, the Sea, recorded the EP at a friend’s rehearsal space in Brooklyn, N.Y. Compared with the recording sessions for “Neptune City,” which took place in Sweden during a grueling winter, “Other People’s Songs” was a breeze to create. It also allowed Miss Atkins more time to focus on her new album, which is still in the formative stages.

“I’m just doing a lot of writing,” she says of the album’s progress. “I’m using four different notebooks, and I have stuff everywhere. I need to take a weekend off and put things together.” Miss Atkins won’t find many free weekends this month, however, as she plans to cap the year with one final tour of the Atlantic seaboard.

Afterward, the band will enjoy the holidays before “disappearing to make the new record.” The Sea’s final tour will take the band through the Rock and Roll Hotel in Northeast. The District is a city Miss Atkins knows well. Before the release of “Neptune City,” she played a weekly residency at the Red and the Black, also in Northeast. Few people initially attended her gigs, but the venue grew increasingly packed as the weeks progressed.

“Now, we have a good little following in D.C.,” Miss Atkins says. “Every time we go there, we recognize more people. We also have our little spots, like this Irish pub near the Rock and Roll Hotel, so it’s nice to get free beers.”

Nicole Atkins and the Sea perform Friday at the Rock and Roll Hotel. Salt & Samovar will open the show at 10:30, and tickets cost $12.

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