Nicole Atkin’s third album Slow Phaser was released just last month on her own label Oh! Mercy. In an interview with Speak Into my Good Eye, Atkins describes her album as “Kind of like the ‘death of the party girl’ album. You know, just where I’m at as a woman in her 30s and like seeing all the normal things that my friends have and never really wanting those things, and then wanting them. It’s like confliction. You know, it’s kind of like what music to the morning sounds like. You know like sometimes it’s really awesome and sometimes its super dark. But even in those dark times I just really wanted to make a dark dance record.”
The ‘death of the party girl’ theme not only relates to Atkin’s experience growing older, it also serves as a metaphor for the havoc wreaked across the Jersey Shore, Atkin’s home, (and mine) by Hurricane Sandy, in October 2012.
“The Worst Hangover” is the ninth song on her album, and is described on her website as the album’s “emotional close.” Its lyrics illustrate “images of shattered disco balls glittering on the storm swept Jersey shoreline.”
What a telling image of the worst morning after New Jersey’s shore has ever seen.
Beach front bars and clubs from Seaside through Long Branch are legendary for the nights that make up what Bruce once called “glory days.”
With the image of glitzy pieces shattered and lost in the sand, I see ghost-like images of disco queens and weekenders from decades past who came “down the shore” to enjoy the sun and scene.
Atkins grew up in Shark River Hills, a suburb near the beach front city of Asbury Park, and performs often at venues like The Stone Pony and Langosta Lounge. Locals have been working for the renaissance of Asbury Park for years. Within the past 10 years, thanks to emerging art galleries, hip shops, restaurants and bars that line the boardwalk and Cookman Avenue, Asbury is an awesome place to call home again. Then, as the temperature dropped after another magical summer (the summer Bamboozle was brought to the Asbury waterfront, a milestone for the town) Sandy swept through and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses. After so much progress, there was major destruction.
In an interview with NPR, Atkins describes the song and the storm in her own words. “Yeah. It [Hurricane Sandy] was really life changing. A lot of our friend’s and family’s houses got destroyed, including my family’s and our neighbor’s. And it just put a lot of things in perspective. After the storm, it just made me think about a lot of things that were more real, and the worst hangover, it’s kind of like a eulogy to the party life, you know, just kind of burying that hedonistic child and wanting to jump off the carousel ’cause it just felt like I was going around and around and around instead of going forward.”
With so many friendly people, sunshine, and an abundance of nightlight, life at the Jersey Shore can become one big party. Especially in the first few warm weather weeks of May and June. Atkin’s carousel image holds true. Also, with a music scene like Asbury’s, it’s not hard to find a good live show any night of the week. Atkin’s album is somewhat of a soundtrack for these incredible images of a life, as well as a tribute to how it feels when the party is over. Just as soon as the storm passed, something incredible happened. Amidst the sadness and devastation, thousands of people throughout the community pitched in to clean up and help in relief efforts. Neighbors offered their homes, food, clothes and resources to others who had lost everything. Some offered their hands to literally pick up the pieces of boardwalks, benches, restaurants, and homes that Sandy had ravaged. It took months of hard work, but by summer 2013 much of the Jersey Shore was back and ready to be enjoyed again. The carousel ride may have been rudely interrupted, but our community came together and lifted each other up.
The carousel image appears a few times in the song, “Just pin my memory on the carousel, round and round,” I can’t help but picture the old carousel that once stood at the South end of the Asbury Park boardwalk, and the building that houses it.
These relics are iconic ruins of a Jersey shore of the past. They are also images of a special community that survives. While Atkins belts out her lyrics, her vocals recreate an idealized image of steamy July nights in Asbury Park, with all of its evolving grit and gaudiness.
You can stream the album here, and I highly recommend you do.