Neko Case: Middle Cyclone

Neko Case has never been one to pull punches. Her unique, almost brash voice doesn't really lend itself to timidity, and her songwriting tends to follow suit. Even when her palette is tinted with the darker recesses of her psyche and brushed with the softer side of her expressive voice, it's done in a way that makes it clear that Case — while willing to reveal her weaknesses and sorrows — is not simply a maven of melancholia, but a force with which to fight it. Middle Cyclone, her fourth solo album, is no exception. "This Tornado Loves You" opens with propulsive drums, like the inexorable momentum of a rail car speeding through dusty former boomtowns, carrying Case either toward or away from an indecisive lover. Although Cyclone contains considerably more pop sheen and up-tempo tendencies than Case's previous efforts, she made a name for herself pairing her haunting voice with haunting tunes, and there are plenty of noirish moments. "Polar Nettles" is particularly arresting, with its martial drumming, cryptically disturbing lyrics and low-slung string and MIDI-sax accompaniment. Case has already proven her pop worthiness collaborating with Carl Newman and friends in New Pornographers, and claimed her throne as alt-country's dark queen through her solo work. On Cyclone, she combines her two domains, and the resulting terrain is an astonishing blend of dust and verdancy, painted alternately in monochrome and Technicolor.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall