Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

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Rating: ★★★★ ·

From time to time, not very often, we bear witness to the amazing talent of an artist that we may not fully understand the impact and powerful force they have wielded upon us and music as a whole. Speaking not only of the present accomplishments they have made but also of the resonances that will be heard of their music to come. It always seems easy to speak greatly about an artist of this caliber in hindsight after they are gone and notice the scar they left on the medium, but to notice the force of the artist in their prime and sit back and admire them is harder to come by. Such is the case (no pun intended) with Neko Case.

With her latese effort entitled Middle Cyclone, Case builds her myth and casts spells upon the listener with every song. When Homer wrote the Odyssey and spoke of the Sirens, the voice he must have heard would’ve been of Neko Case. She commands attention with every word she sings and leaves the weak to the wayside. Opener, “This Tornado Loves You” spins into your heart doing just that. The opening mandolin strum with the rolling snare that follows makes for the perfect musical soundscape for Case’s vocal whirlwind. Lines such as “carved your name across three counties” and “their broken necks will lie in the ditch” tells of the search, destruction, and anger she has toward a lover and the demise of weak men she spits out in search of him.

“People Got A Lotta Nerve” is another girl power anthem that’s meaning works on many levels. All men have been hoping a song with this powerful of a chorus would never happen, but are forced to reckon with “I’m a man-man-man, man-man-man—eater!” JEEZUS! Did she have to go and do that?! Every time us guys are in a bar or at friends house and this song comes on, we are gonna have to swallow our pride for 2 1/2 minutes while you girls get too big for your britches and think you have some sort of dominant role over men. Pffft. (Babe, if you’re reading this, I cleaned the dishes and did the bathroom too.)

The middle section of the album is composed mostly of acoustic numbers that allow for the potency of Case’s vocals to take effect. Her vocal delivery is amplified by the stark imagery and subject matter of her lyrics. First and foremost an amazing vocalist, her lyrics take you further away by descriptive tales of  romance and love without being twee and silly. Murder, blood, and knives are common in her dark vocabulary as spiderwebs,  magpies and tornadoes are thrown into the mix for natural measure. A simple lullaby like, “Magpie to the Morning” can only be taken to such heights by the beauty of such inventiveness.

There are two covers on the album, Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me” and Sparks“Never Turn Your Back On Mother Nature.” Both songs sound a bit strange for the album in terms of flow, but it seems they are songs held close to heart for Case with good intentions like “N.T.Y.B.O.M.N.” Case owns a 100 acre lot with a house in the lush greenery of Vermont which I’m sure contributes to the inspiration for covering this song. In fact, the nature surrounding the house has had such an impact that it yielded it’s own 30 minute track. The albums’ finale “Marais La Nuit,” was recorded outside of her house with the sounds of crickets and the nightlife bringing the record to a close.

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