Review: “Middle Cyclone,” Neko Case

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Listening to Neko Case’s new album Middle Cyclone, the notion crossed my mind that Case could be the female counterpart to Alejandro Escovedo: a hopeless romantic who has been bruised and battered by life but ultimately becomes tougher and stronger.  The album cover imagery and the song titles – “This Tornado Loves You,” “People Gotta Lotta Nerve,” and “I’m An Animal,” to name a few – give off the appearance of ncase4_20081202_105759-thumb-380x253toughness.  But when you scratch a little deeper, you find this is Neko’s most personal statement to date.  On this, her sixth studio set, Case is wise enough to surround her clear-as-tequila voice with interesting instrumentation; the multiple pianos on her cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me,” and the Byrds-like guitar on “People Gotta Lotta Nerve” only add to Case’s swirling songwriting.   And Neko plunges headfirst into avant garde with the album closer “Marais La Nuit,” a 30-minute (or so) field recording of night noises (frogs, crickets – you know).   It all fits in with Neko Case’s vision of love that’s like natural disasters and meat-eating predators.  Don’t try to figure it out, just go with it.  Middle Cyclone may not immediately blow you away but its claws sink in to your flesh.  It’s a quirky, original and engaging album.

Free download of “Middle Cyclone,” courtesy of Neko Case and Anti- Records

Stream entire album at NPR Music

Neko Case official website

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