Vertigo, the brand new album from Nicholas Altobelli, starts us off with a pendulous ballad in “Red, White, And Blues,” and amidst its measured strut we get to hear some of this singer/songwriter’s smoothest crooning to date. This vocal showcase is followed by an equally spellbinding number in the folky “Thunderstorms,” which brings an atmospheric instrumental harmony into the fold that is capable of inducing more chills than any other element of the entire record can. “Everybody Knows the Truth” greets us with a bit of melodic moxie that will become a quintessential component in the latter portion of this tracklist, but its churning rhythm is perhaps one of the more conventional that we’ll hear in what amounts to the most charismatic release of this young man’s career.
“Midnight Songs” flaunts a poetic depth that was only hinted at in previous Altobelli records, and though it’s a little icy compared to what precedes it, I don’t think that it disrupts the flow of Vertigo at all. The cold tone of this track thaws on the spot in the blissful gaze of “Odd Numbers,” one of my favorite songs on the LP, and it’s here that we start to see a more prominent difference between this songwriter’s work and that of his major label rivals in and out of the Lone Star State. “Odd Numbers” and the startlingly brooding “Don’t Let the World Get You Down” are instrumentally-driven, and while their lyrics don’t sound like filler, they’re not the main focus of our attention as much as the harmonies that they glide across are.
Suddenly, a raging blaze of Heartland-style riff-rock comes screaming out of the darkness in “Runaway Trains,” which I would rank as the most polished composition that Nicholas Altobelli has put onto an album since first arriving on the scene in the early 2010s. The guitars grind hard, but rather than smothering the vocal track, they merge with it to make the only harmony that can truly challenge what the epic “Thunderstorms” contains. “Look out the Window” and the progressive “Tell Me What I Got to Do” creep out of the ashes that “Runaway Trains” leaves behind, but their simplistic melodies don’t linger in the shadow of the amplified heat for very long. Not one song here minimizes the impact of another, and that’s not usually the case in LPs that come following a player’s extended hiatus.
The acoustic lullaby “Go to Sleep” sets a perfect stage for the instrumental dream “Trains,” the concluding track in Vertigo (and, ironically, the most existential in tone). Nicholas Altobelli took his time constructing a proper sequel to the watershed Searching Through That Minor Key, but I can’t find any evidence to support the notion that he didn’t make the right decision in doing so when listening to the near-dozen songs comprising this record. We’re made to not only hear his words in these tracks, but actually feel them as well. Through a combination of urbane producing, sophisticated songwriting and a drive to create something that conveyed everything he’s been through in the last few years, he’s made an undisputed album for the ages in Vertigo.