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Nikki Lane restores her vigour on Denim & Diamonds

"Denim & Diamonds"

Release date: 23 September 2022
Nikki lane denim and diamonds art
21 September 2022, 00:00 Written by Tanatat Khuttapan

The anticipated follow-up to Nikki Lane’s acclaimed album Highway Queen has finally arrived, which is a fortunate relief given she almost didn’t want to create another project after 2017.

The interminable tour for that record considerably drained her energy, and she rather wished to take some time off, whether by hanging out with her peers or by lending a helping hand to other artists. Not to mention the usual themes that she might have exhausted, too.

The prominence of outdoor shenanigans on her previous albums – ranging from countless intimate hook-ups, late-night casinos, to romantic runaways – was staggering. These endless ventures had subsequently named her the fiercest cowgirl of the country town, whose notoriety and spirit remained zestful and immortal. But perhaps, after having donned this persona ceaselessly during the tour, she eventually thought it proper to undress it and conceive a new one. The protracted hiatus of over five years was, therefore, justifiable, for she could move beyond the fringes of her usual “outlaw country” melodies at an unhurried, relaxed pace, conscientiously garnering new inspirations to curate something crisp and enthralling.

This propelling force towards change paves the foundation for her latest album, Denim & Diamonds, an ambitious attempt at reimagining the vizard of Nikki Lane: who she genuinely is as a person and what sonic direction is truly well-fitted for her. Interestingly, she has labeled it as the “true” representation of herself, which is fathomable. One could sense her stylistic shift right from the first second of this record. The animated, bulky beats, which serve as the introduction to the album, rage through the three minutes of “First High," whose lyrics spotlight the keen excavation of her long-gone youth. Later we would realise how apt the rock-infused track is as both the lead single and the opener track: So thoroughly does it capture the essence of self-reflection and adulthood, which is the record’s central abstract. Here, Lane investigates and embraces the inward self rather than the chaotic exterior, gouging out the compelling, personal vignettes and the revelations that came from them.

Not only does this particular feature make Denim & Diamonds a refurbishment in narrative and sound, but also a striking revolution of her artistry. Anthemic songs like “Born Tough” and “Try Harder,” where she sings of strengthening her soul through life struggles and learning to jiggle out of them, come across as delightfully therapeutic and self-reassuring as ever before. Granted, she accompanies these trudging subjects with her childhood savior, rock-and-roll, to exert a more dramatic effect. Where lies the subtle, unorthodox country nuances is now charmingly supplemented with psychedelic rock influences from the late 60s to the early 70s, with help from Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age (Elisa, Lady Gaga). The title track is inevitably the archetype of this luscious amalgam; her signature carefree, passive-aggressive tone corresponds well with the muscular surges of electric guitar swings. Quoting a saying from yesteryear icon Cher, nodding dismissively, and majestically dispelling the negative criticism through these incensed instruments; one could tell she had the most fun time creating it. "I can buy my own denim and diamonds," she cries.

Lane is known to defy all the conventions, and she continues this streak yet again on this album. However, despite such attributes being present – “Faded,” for instance, is a familiar-yet-pristine ode of vehement longing, with tantalizing pedal steels gliding through her moving words – Denim & Diamonds still feels like an outlier in her discography. Perhaps her magnificent growth, manifested in these reflective songs, is the main reason why it is so, or the perplexing, enigmatic ending of “Chamiyo” that concludes the album with such impassioned despair. Overall, the reestablishment has been proven successful. So sentimental and lyrical the whole thing is, and its content remains forthright and honest throughout. It is, indeed, a gratifying holistic experience.

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