Adena Atkins is a rather unique musician, with a background firmly rooted in musical studies (most notably with a degree in music from Berklee University); and perhaps more importantly for the sake of this review a background firmly rooted in emotion both through the melodies of her music and the lyrical poetry which she so soundly is able to express over her musical compositions. It is difficult to classify Adena Atkins' music, though it undoubtedly dabbles in a range of synthetic and ambient sounds, as well as jazz music (most notably in the bass grooves and drum beats). In addition to this, her background in classical music and opera seep in as each track on this 4-song EP seem to tell a story; and is guided by both music elements, as well as the lyrical content. If anything could be said about this young and budding artist, I would have to say that she is driven to produce excellent music, and has much school and life experience to actually accomplish this feat. Let me now bring your attention to my review of her debut album titled The Slowest Curve EP, and perhaps as you continue to read you will be able to figure out just who Adena Atkins really is by understanding her music. For me, there is no separating this woman from her music; as they are quite literally made for each other, and understanding Adena means you can understand her music; and for those who never get to meet her in person, understanding her music will certainly bring you insight into who she is as both an artist and a person.
As previously mentioned, the sound of The Slowest Curve EP by Adena Atkins is one that primarily dabbles in ambient and jazz music. Most of the songs on this album are down-tempo, which lends itself to adding to the emotion of each individual chord and note played; as well as to the focus on the vocal and lyrical content (which will be discussed later in this review). For being an album of this nature, it is suprisingly diverse in its sound content. The beauty of synthetic instrumentation is just how diverse each song can sound, while having similarities that make the entire album into one uniform whole. The tracks on this album are very attractive to those interested in commercial friendly music, yet they also are interesting from a musical standpoint; and again, the lyrical content is ultimately the major focus of these tracks which instantly makes the album standout amidst a very crowded, radio-friendly atmosphere. While it is difficult to pinpoint much in the way of musical influences (aside from the generic "everything and everyone influences this musc"), I have found striking similarities in the sound of Adena Atkins' voice as the female vocalist in M83 (a popular pop-electronica band). With the band M83 in mind, I find many similarities between The Slowest Curve EP and many of their relatively softer, down-tempo tracks (such as the track "Too Late") as well. Of course, with the overall atmosphere being much more jazz and ambient influenced.
A final point to note with regards to the sound of this album is that it is very well produced, though not to a point where it feels "over" produced. Adena Atkins recorded this 4-track EP in a studio with producer Jay Pinto. There are no problems to be had with the recording quality of the tracks.
COMPOSITION AND INSTRUMENTATION:
The music contained within The Slowest Curve EP follows the structure of much popular music, however in subtle ways the compositions are able to rise above just sounding like standard pop music fare. With occasional ambient interludes, as is present on the track "April Rain," and the incorporation of a variety of different timbres and dynamics; the tracks seem to ebb and flow from one musical (and somewhat theatrical) destination to another. On the topic of the music specifically, the instrumentation is very well done. A variety of synthetic sounds are present on this album, from soft ambient pads to synth bells and piano tones. On occasion, some live drums and overdrive guitars also bleed into the tracks; but primarily the music of Adena Atkins revolves around synthetic instrumentation. As previously mentioned, the tracks are primarily performed at a slower tempo. The opening track entitled "Glass" is an interesting choice for a first track due to its droning synths (sounding somewhat like a synthetic sitar to my ears). Of course, the standout track on this album for me is "April Rain" because it moves away from the downtempo sound; and adds some variety to the music in this manner.
Ultimately, with the compositions and instrumentation I can find very little to complain about on this album. The music may be difficult to immediately get into for some people considering it's pacing and quietness, and I can also admit that I would have preferenced to see some additional live instruments (like an acoustic guitar) find their way into these compositions; but as they are now, the tracks on The Slowest Curve EP show a lot of potential for this budding musician.
VOCALS AND LYRICS:
I feel that much of this review has been building up to this section, as the vocals and lyrics contained within The Slowest Curve EP are what ultimately have drawn me to enjoy this music over multiple listens. My first impression was actually lackluster in the vocal department, though after a few more listens I came to adjust to Adena's relatively unique vocal styling that finds a nice balance between a melodic soprano and an almost spoken word style of melodic singing. At this point, I very much enjoy her vocal styling; and feel it makes the tracks contained in this album very powerful. Her voice, as previously mentioned, reminds me of the female vocalist in M83. In addition, I can also hear a country/folk sound in her singing style, as well as a somewhat operaic vocal style (particularly in the final track titled "Hot Gray Morning") that reminds me heavily of Nightwish's vocalist Annette Olzon.
Lyrically, I can find no flaws. With lyrics such as those contained in the track "April Rain" (seen below), there is certainly beautiful poetry to be found.
"The morning sun filters through
changing the view all around us
it’s baffling, at least to me
I never acknowledge the extent to which
we all are ruled by petty things
our very existence depending on
predictable behavior of
the universe just drifts apart
stars explode and we never hear them."
In fact, the poetry contained in this album is fantastic, and the words themselves stand on their own, with or without the music and Adena Atkin's beautiful (yet unique) voice.
Adena Atkin's album The Slowest Curve EP is great to listen too. While there are occasional flaws, and the music itself may not exactly be for everyone; I feel that the heavy atmosphere, well written lyrics, and the voice of Adena herself make the tracks worth checking out for sure. This is only the starting point for Adena Atkin's solo music career, and I feel that just based on these 4 tracks she is showing much potential as a musician. In conclusion, I would give The Slowest Curve EP a rating of 8 out of 10, as I feel this is a very well done album of music; however if I am to be critical it does have some slight drawbacks (such as lacking much in the way of live instrumentation). Ultimately though, the music is still very well done and I am certain many people will enjoy it. If you are a fan of ambient, jazz, folk, and pop music (among other genres) I would highly recommend checking out Adena Atkin's musical work and ultimately judging her EP for yourself at the links below:
Adena Atkin's Website
The Slowest Curve EP Press Release
Adena Atkin's Facebook Fan Page
Purchase The Slowest Curve EP on Itunes Today!