Artfully blending gritty, heartfelt folk/Americana with a seductive, atmospheric dream pop vibe, Nicholas Altobelli launches his second decade an indie artist with the release of Vertigo. He’s been through a lot of cool life changes in the four too long years since his previous album. 2015’s Searching Through that Minor Key. He left music full time to return to college to pursue a degree in literature, and in 2016 started his ideal “day job” as a high school English teacher.
Blurt Magazine said of that album, “These gentle songs celebrate the way sadness can be beautiful” – but the overall sense of optimism he expresses on Vertigo lets us know that he’s in a more settled and hopeful place now. Several of these uplifting tunes, like meditative, gently bluesy “Thunderstorms,” the jangly, lighthearted “Don’t Let The World Let You Down” and the heartfelt declaration of love “Everybody Knows The Truth” seem to derive from personal relationships or people he knows.
The album’s hypnotic, easy grooving piano driven opener and thematic centerpiece “Red, White and Blues,” however, is far more universal in nature – and about something it’s getting more and more difficult to see through rose colored glasses. It’s an offbeat love song to America where despite all the sociopolitical hostility, he still dares to believe “maybe that it ain’t supernatural/That someday we could love one another. . .We just got to find a way to live together with these red, white and blues.” One of the more interesting aspects of Vertigo is how thematically connected most of the songs are despite many having been written in different phases of his career – and, in the case of “Don’t Let The World,” as early as 2009.
Two tracks, “Thunderstorms” and the lost in confusion post-relationship lament “Odd Numbers,” are dynamically amped up versions of songs from 2014’s Mesocyclone (key line in “Odd Numbers,” “Yes the darkness came but the light sure gave a try”). The bright, jangly “Runaway Trains” and soulful folk tune “Tell Me What I Got to Do” were outtakes from that album, and the tender lyrical “Go To Sleep” is from a never fulfilled children’s album. Others written in 2015-16 are included, seemingly to make Vertigo a true and riveting chronicle of his Altobelli’s emergence from the darkness of his 2013 divorce to the light he is trying to shine now.