For the past several years, Grace Potter has earned her stripes as a tireless performer with her longtime musical companions, The Nocturnals. Rocking the festival circuit and releasing four major label records, the rock outfit has added fans in droves and has served as a great platform for Potter’s eclectic musicality and rocking Joplin-esque vocals. Now Potter is taking it to the next level, stepping away from the band setting for her debut solo outing, Midnight, an album that finds the artist exploring a variety of musical textures but never straying far from her soulful roots.
With producer Eric Valentine (Good Charlotte, Nickel Creek, Slash) on board as well as her Nocturnal family and friends along for the ride, Potter begins with a canvas that is clearly anchored in her rock moorings but finds itself expanding out into forays of pop, soul, and even disco with generally positive results.
“Hot To the Touch” leads things off and builds on a platform of programmed vibes and playful vocal runs that finds Potter tapping into her rising sex symbol status while “Alive Tonight” embraces the pop genre with a full frontal hug, delivering something that’s almost guaranteed to make Top 40 radio with it’s bright energy and hook-filled chorus. “Your Girl” is a solid step into soul and R&B, Potter’s voice seamlessly making the transition as “Empty Heart” plays with distorted vocals, kicking piano, and some strong beats from Potter’s husband and Nocturnal cohort, Matt Burr.
Further pop adventures are found on “The Miner,” Potter slowing things down with a lovelorn lyric and some soulful guitar hits that give way to the artist’s disco-meets-rock jam, “Delirious.” The first half is a retro dance jam that may frustrate fans of Potter’s more hard rocking side but they’ll quickly come around as the track flows into the roaring, animalistic break at the end where Potter’s howling screams remind listeners of why she’s been favorably compared to female rockers like Grace Slick and Janis Joplin. A bit tamed but still with plenty of restless energy, “Look What We’ve Done” rolls in with a chunky backbeat and simmering guitars that threaten to explode.
“Instigators” kicks in the drums with a vibe reminiscent of Fall Out Boy but “Biggest Fan” drops the ball a bit, seeming to waste Potter’s soulful chops with an unimaginative composition that just falls flat. However, “Low” takes things back in the right direction, the acoustic feel perfectly accented with simmering blues notes and some gravelly vocals from Potter while “Nobody’s Born With a Broken Heart” tries for a bit of gospel flair but comes up short before closing things out with a little soul on “Let You Go.”
Grace Potter’s Midnight is an album that is bound to be greeted with mixed reactions. Fans of Potter’s prior work may be dissuaded these steps into pop but there’s also the possibility that this calculated risk may just pay off for the artist, bringing her powerful voice to a whole new audience. Sure, she’s at her best when she’s wailing on the guitar and screaming out her lyrics but on Midnight she shows that she’s more than a one-trick pony, delivering hits of soul, R&B, and pop with equal aplomb.