EDITOR’S NOTE: As album releases slow down in December, we like to catch our breath and write about albums that came out earlier in the year that we didn’t get a chance to review but we think are worthy of your attention. Promenade Blue was released in April.
Nick Waterhouse has carved out a nice little niche for himself as a purveyor of a hybrid sound of late ’50s rock and roll and R&B, classic soul and jazz. In April he released his fifth album, Promenade Blue. A continued exploration into the sounds he first started exploring nearly a decade ago, it’s arguably his finest work and one of the best albums to have come out in 2021.
Waterhouse and producer Paul Butler continue the collaborative efforts that began on his eponymous 2019 LP, resulting in a project that balances retro tendencies with a forward-thinking, appropriately slick sheen. The approach pays off, imbuing swingin’ tracks like the clever “Fugitive Lover,” which features one of Waterhouse’s most dynamic vocal performances to date, and the Jordanaires-evoking “Modern Time” with a modern sensibility.
The choices Waterhouse and Butler make from a sonic standpoint also help to heighten the dramatic scope of the material. On “Place Names” the drums are tight and really pop, and the sweeping string arrangement wonderfully intertwines with the harmonies on the chorus. “Promene Bleu” is a lovely jazz piece, immaculately constructed in a way that utilizes space to create a mood and let each instrument breathe and have standout moments.
More than just a showcase for a master class in how production aesthetics can accentuate an artist’s sound, Promenade Blue is also just a batch of 11 really cool songs that are pleasing to the ear. “Vincentine” is a top-notch little rocker, while the penultimate track, “B. Santa Ana, 1986,” finds Waterhouse playfully leaning into surf pop to great effect as he tells the story of his West Coast lifestyle and personality.
From start-to-finish, Promenade Blue is an entertaining, engagement listening experience. If you missed out on it upon release, do yourself a favor and check it out tout suite.