Friday, March 27, 2009

Neko Case - Middle Cyclone (Anti, 2009)

Normally I'm not that into confessional singer-songwriters, but there's something about the dark, torchy voice Neko Case has that is really alluring. She has a touch of the great old time singers like Dinah Washington or Billie Holiday, that livens up and accentuates even her poppiest material. There is quite a bit of pop flavored material here, and some of it works quite well. The opening track "This Tornado Loves You" uses nature as a metaphor for a tumultuous relationship, with some repetition and refrain in her singing that makes the song very effective. "People Got a Lotta Nerve" imagines animals turning the tables on their tormentors and mocks those that would hurt them. This is a theme for much of her songwriting on this album, and her affinity with nature runs through the course of the album, from the title song to ecological concerns on "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth" and her own self as a primal beast on "I'm an Animal." “Marais La Nuit” is the final track on the album, running over thirty minutes of crickets or chirping on her Vermont farm. At best, this is filler which shows her love of the natural world and at worst it's nonsensical; but it really does not detract from the meat of the album as a whole, and is easily skipped. While this album doesn't quite reach the lofty hights of her extraordinary previous album, Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, it is still a worthwhile amalgam of pop, country and soul that is miles ahead of most of the music on the pop charts these days.

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