Neko Case – Middle Cyclone [Album Review]

by Woody on March 9, 2009


I was first introduced to the music of Neko Case around the time of the release of Fox Confessor Brings the Flood in 2006.‚  The first adjective that sprung to mind was haunting.‚  How else can one describe such darkly melodic tracks such as “Margaret Vs Pauline” and “Star Witness” (which starts out with Case crooning, “My true love drowned in a dirty old pan of oil”)?‚  The album had a kind of Roy Orbison as storyteller feel that extended well past the alt-country label that had been pinned on her, at times revealing traces of folk-punk and indie pop.‚  And her vocal range was stunning. Enlightened listeners agreed and the album peaked at #4 on the U.S. indie charts.

Neko just released her first studio album in nearly three years under the title Middle Cyclone and the recipe that made Fox Confessor such a success has thankfully not been altered. Collaborators on this record included M. Ward, members of the New Pornographers (Neko’s part-time side project), and Calexico¦a nice mix for sure.‚  Furthermore, all the same musicians that have backed her since Blacklisted reappear including the enchanting backing vocals of Kelly Hogan.‚  One added benefit is the interesting choice of cover art previously discussed on this site.

The album consists of 15 tracks, assuming that you consider “Marais la nuit” a track, which is actually 31 minutes of crickets recorded on her farm.‚  The first three tracks are wonderfully vintage Neko Case and easily could have been included on Fox Confessor.‚  On “This Tornado Loves You”, Case narrates an up-tempo number from the perspective of a tornado that crosses three counties leaving destruction in its wake.‚  Is she personifying a deathly storm or is it meant to be allegorical?‚ ‚  We don’t know for sure, but you have to appreciate lyrics like:

My love, I am the speed of sound, I left the motherless fatherless,
Their souls dangling from the insides of their mouths.

On the second track, “The Next Time You Say Forever,” she shifts gears slightly and introduces a nice backdrop of strings and mid-temp guitar strums behind lines like, “I’ve lost my taste for home and that’s a dirty fallow feeling.”‚  Finally on the third track, and quite possibly the best on the album, she introduces her most memorable lyrical hook with “I’m a man, man, man-eater¦”‚  Each song is a story, whether its animals gone berserk, high school hallways or twisters, they’re all unique and interesting.‚  And all told from the perspective of a ruby-voiced narrator.

This is one of the great indie musicians around today and, given her past catalogue, fans and admirers of her music have every reason to expect the most from a new album with a 3-year gestation period.‚  But take my word, she doesn’t disappoint.

Neko Case – People Got A Lotta Nerve

Neko Case – People Got A Lotta Nerve

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Shirk March 12, 2009 at 8:44 am

Loving this album so far. Like her last album , the production is sooo tasty. And the songs have legs. Would love to find some production credits, etc. iTunes….PLEASE add liner notes to your downloads!!! Let those who deserve credit actually get it.

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