On the surface, “Slow Phaser” appears to be a return to the immaculate popcraft of Nicole Atkins’s sparkling debut “Neptune City” after veering toward more a rough-and-tumble rootsiness on its follow-up “Mondo Amore.” And indeed, returning “Neptune City” producer Tore Johansson once again provides a crispness, with each sonic building block set precisely in place. But Atkins’s songwriting has since mutated, so that even songs that would have fit on “Neptune City” (the remix-ready disco track “Girl You Look Amazing”) or “Mondo Amore” (the stomping country-gospel “Sin Song”) represent a progression. The rest tilts toward the sweep of early Kate Bush-style art pop, from the darkly pretty simmer of “Red Ropes” to the bounce of “The Worst Hangover.” And Atkins’s vocals — she was born with Stevie Nicks’s voice but insists on singing like Mama Cass — remain a marvel. Releasing three remarkable albums with three personalities may complicate building a fanbase, but it’s terrific for building a body of work. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Red Ropes”
Nicole Atkins performs at Brighton Music Hall Feb. 14.