Neko Case Releases Fifth Solo Album
April 1, 2009
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The album art features a fierce-looking redhead crouched on the hood of a burgundy Mercury Cyclone and holding a sword. The redhead is Tacoma singer-songwriter Neko Case, and the album is her latest contribution, Middle Cyclone. Released Wedensday, March 4, Middle Cyclone is Case’s fifth solo album and follows 2006’s critically acclaimed Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Case is more widely known for her work with The New Pornographers, but her solo work is equally powerful (she is often compared to Patsy Cline) and just as catchy.
Unlike some of her earlier albums, the tracks of Middle Cyclone are distinctly different from one another, featuring a wide range of instrumentation and style. The album ranges from the power-pop sound of “People Got a Lotta Nerve” (the album’s first single) to the alt-country feeling of “The Pharaohs.” The album reflects the polish that Case’s work has acquired over the years, moving further away from the gritty classic country sound of The Furnace Room Lullaby.
The instrumentation of Middle Cyclone is beautiful and well thought out, and the band includes such members as Carl Newman, Kathryn Calder, and Garth Hudson. The first two are her band mates from The New Pornographers, and Hudson is best known for his work with The Band. However, it is Case’s voice that carries her work, and this remains true throughout Middle Cyclone. Her voice is powerful and beautiful, with the ability to belt out high notes and carry lower ones with equal clarity.
The tracks themselves soar, the combination of Case’s voice and their instrumentation creating a deeply layered landscape for each song. The recording is made with a very slight echo, which only increases the power of the songs. The album features two beautifully done covers, Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me” and Sparks’ “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth.” All others are originals, with lyrics that are both specific and general at the same time.
The only misstep of the album comes at the very end, with the track “Marais La Nuit.” The track is 31 minutes long, which usually signifies that there is a bonus track hidden at the end after 20 minutes of silence. Not so in the case of this track. “Marais La Nuit” is simply 31 minutes of the sounds of little spring peeper frogs. It’s a disappointing finish to an otherwise superb album.
Overall, Middle Cyclone is a joy to listen to, and evokes images of stormy clouds over a Midwestern plain. Case’s work has been classified as “alt-country” in the past, but her music is accessible even to non-country fans. Middle Cyclone is certainly an album worth listening to.