Wake

Vocally innovative and lyrically intense, Nicholls' sophomore project is instantly striking for its sheer lack of timidity, a quality that many female singer/ songwriters lack.

Vocally innovative and lyrically intense, Nicholls' sophomore project is instantly striking for its sheer lack of timidity, a quality that many female singer/ songwriters lack. Nicholls' style can be a bit disconcerting, as on "How Strong," with its at times atonal, groaning style, though it works throughout due to her continual, unadulterated boldness. Blending beautiful piano work with rock, pop, funk, and jazz stylings, the set touches on the strength of beliefs ("Faith"), the often illogical twists and turns of life ("Maze"), and the challenges of love ("Come to Me"). The smooth grooves of "Bread and Water" and the more sinister "Breath" each exceptionally explore the loss of a relationship, while a hidden track powerfully relates the lifespan of a cut flower to the uneasiness in the world. Nicholls commands repeated listens; there is always something new worth discovering.—JP