Grace Potter’s (technically) second solo album, Midnight, is less a solo effort and more a re-branding of her style. Considering that Potter wrote most of the songs for the Nocturnals’ four albums and that several of the Nocturnals joined Potter for Midnight‘s studio recordings, the one variable here is Potter’s shift from bluesy rock to dance-pop. The shift is less jarring with Potter’s huge voice still front and center, but the album’s 12 tracks are a constant push and pull between her belted vocals and the layer upon layer of shiny synths.

Potter maintains her strutting persona and affinity for rock, country, blues and soul mashups, but these sensibilities are now geared toward huge pop anthems. Stacked at the front end of Midnight are the irresistible “Hot to the Touch,” “Alive Tonight” and “Your Girl.” Sequencers abound but mix with sporadic gritty guitar riffs for a fitting soundscape for Potter. ’80s vibes are invoked on “Hot to the Touch” as well as “Your Girl,” which features a surprising blend of funk and synthpop. Later, “Delirious” starts out similarly before devolving into a tug of war between a screeching breakdown and Potter’s wailing. And “Alive Tonight” is a jubilant soul-dance hybrid that highlights Potter’s sheer range, from shrieking over blaring guitars to sighing along with the pre-chorus.

Rest assured, Potter hasn’t lost her songwriting punch on Midnight. There are straightforward party songs (“Alive Tonight,” “Delirious”), but there’s also “Your Girl,” whose narrator resists a new relationship because “I like your girl too much.” It’s less sexual ambiguity and more mutual respect, but Potter plays it up with funky coyness. “Nobody’s Born With a Broken Heart” goes even further in crafting a narrative around a “restless father” and his abandoned son looking for redemption. Country gives way to gospel when Potter builds to the final verse: “And they’re not asking for a miracle/ All they want is a second chance/ Sing hallelujah!” Contextually, the track might not seem to fit with the rest of Midnight, but Potter makes a concerted effort to start strong with upbeat pop before slowly bringing things down to torch songs.

That variety on Midnight doesn’t make the album uneven, but rather, it showcases Potter’s range and depth. There are a handful of songs begging to be hits and much-needed come-downs to balance everything out. And even in her downtempo moments, Potter consistently lifts the instrumentation and emotion to soaring heights. “The Miner” is an immensely sad song about heartbreak, but her wail of “You’re breaking me down” is matched by a squealing guitar solo. And the aptly titled “Low” once again uses an R&B-indebted beat but pairs it with a scratchy acoustic guitar and bluesy line throughout. She can’t resist returning to her roots, even when experimenting with a new musical direction; no one could criticize her for selling out to pop.

Beyond rebranding Potter, Midnight makes a case for her ability to own any style. While the album is dance and pop-rock heavy, it still offers glimpses of country in “Empty Heart” and “Nobody’s Born With a Broken Heart” and Potter tackles uncharted territory in ethereal dreampop-meets-light R&B in the ballad “The Miner.” Blues-rock infused tracks like “Look What We’ve Become” and, to an extent (not including the blippy synth), “Instigators” sound straight off a Nocturnals LP, no doubt welcome inclusions for those still getting used to radio-pop Potter. What’s impressive here is Potter’s ability to bridge these genre gulfs with her wonder of a voice. The pure pop songs could be sung by any of the genre’s standard bearers these days, but Potter brings added grit and sincerity. She may have veered into pop for the benefits of extended radio-play, but the fact is, she writes a brilliant pop-rock song.

  • Concert Review: Grace Potter

    A Mardi Gras parade that delayed the actual start of the concert by 45 minutes. …
  • From the Vaults of Streaming Hell: Koi…Mil Gaya

    Few films will leave you as borderline offended, flabbergasted, entertained and touched as…
  • Oeuvre: Campion: Holy Smoke!

    Holy Smoke! manages to revisit some of the same themes as The Piano yet in a less cohesive…
  • Mountain

    Like Planet Earth, Mountain offers beautiful shots of some of the most treacherous places …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

From the Vaults of Streaming Hell: Koi…Mil Gaya

Few films will leave you as borderline offended, flabbergasted, entertained and touched as…