Diamonds and a down comforter

David Bavas, David Bavas and the Down Comforter

David Bavas’ hushed voice holds promises of tender melodies between its raspy edges; possibly another Jakob Dylan emerging from the endless pit of singer/songwriters. On his debut full-length album, Bavas begins with a simple country ballad. With ambiguous lyrics filled with meaningless imagery, “Sorry” makes for a weak opener. The next song, “Crazy,” quickens the pace to a pleasant mid-tempo pop song. The upbeat and bright guitars provide a nice contrast from Bavas’ nonchalant (and often uninterested) vocals.

As the album progresses, however, Bavas’ narrow range of musical styling sticks out like a sore thumb. Every song, aside from “Crazy” and “River,” is a slow-moving ballad with simple lyrics, running around themes of heartbreak, regret, and confusion, and even simpler melodies. At times, Bavas’ calm voice drops to an incomprehensible mumble, leaving the listener with slow strumming guitars, soft drums, and the occasional cello or lap steel guitar. But it’s hard to blame him for sounding bored with lyrics as vague and detached as “Rainy day, just go away, leave me alone tonight.”

Based in Seattle, Wash., Bavas has been playing gigs since 2004, including this year’s South by Southwest Festival. Maybe his live act is more engaging than David Bavas and the Down Comforter. But as it stands, this album is far too ordinary and flat to make any impact on anyone’s collection.

Nicole Atkins, Bleeding Diamonds EP

There is one experience that all New Jersey natives can relate to: realizing the town you grew up in — that you thought was beautiful — is actually a piece of crap (save for a few exceptions). But you can still love a piece of crap, can’t you? Springsteen sure found a way. Now there’s a new Jersey kid on the horizon: female vocalist Nicole Atkins.

In “Neptune City,” Atkins croons about a bittersweet return to her hometown. Though her words reflect more of the bitter side, her voice sweeps theatrically over the melodies as the piano tinkles, reminiscent of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” On the rest of Bleeding Diamonds EP, Atkins displays her youthful, grandiose voice quite tastefully over her backing band, The Sea, which balances Atkins’ strong presence with elegant guitars, bright piano, powerful percussion, and light strings.

The album’s opener and title track begins lightly with regretful lyrics and builds towards a mighty climax saturated with strings and bells. Following with the lighthearted “Snowshakes,” Atkins hits a perfect combination of accuracy and laxness in her syncopated melody. She sings, “Let the radio go on ‘til after I’m long gone.” These moments pepper the album to add an extra kick of quirkiness to each of the graceful songs. Atkins shows a lot of potential on this EP and will hopefully take her smooth voice to similar heights on a full-length album.