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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Song by Song: 'Middle Cyclone' by Neko Case

A new feature, in which I break down a new release, song by song. This review was also written during the first time I heard this album. First up: 'Middle Cyclone', by everyone's favorite country-singing, flame-haired vixen, Neko Case.

1. This Tornado Loves You- Solid guitars, usual silky-smooth vocals, nice lyrics. Good, but nothing outstanding.

2. The Next Time You Say 'Forever'- One of my favorite tracks on this album. Short, sweet, swollen with sound and emotion. A rare mix of beauty and comedy: "The next time you say forever, I'll punch you in your face..." A wonderful offering for the insecure lover in all of us.

3. People Got A Lotta Nerve- I'm a man-man-man, man-man-man-eater! The song that lead me to this album. Joyous, bouncy, catchy- I'm having a hard time typing and not dancing right now.

4. Polar Nettles- Something a little different from Ms. Case- a little electronic, a little depressing. Seems a little strange to put this next to 'People Got a Lotta Nerve', though- they don't quite flow from one to t'other.

5. Vengeance is Sleeping- Very, very pretty- there's something about her voice that rings like a deeper, richer Jenny Lewis.

6. Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth- Pretty good song all in all, but it sounds a little middle-of-the-road. A little slow, and doesn't really offer anything new to the album.

7. Middle Cyclone- Painfully country, in a good way. The vocals at their prime- soft in places, formidable in others. Speaking of which, does anyone else feel this is an odd cover for a country album? I can't decide whether or not that picture of Neko Case brandishing a sword on the top of a car is genius, or shite.

8. Fever- I'm beginning to love the recurring jangly sounds- they definitely add something to the percussion, particularly in this song. In fact, all of the sounds in this song work beautifully together. Some nice wordplay as well-lovely.

9. Magpie to the Morning- From 'doves' in Fever to magpies, she certainly likes her bird imagery. Sleepy and beautiful, with some lovely harmonies, but I'm getting a little miffed about how short the songs are.

10. I'm an Animal- Ok, the songs are too short. I want a little more bulk, a little development, a little more. I think the shortness of the songs makes the album sound a little premature. The length of the songs compromises this album's potential.

11. Prison Girls- The deep, brooding side of Neko Case at it's best- appropriately named, I feel. What's striking me about the album is the exquisite lyrics: 'I love your long shadows and your gun powder eyes...'

12. Don't Forget Me- Here's one for the lovers- choc-full of pianos and powerhouse vocals. Lovely jubbly.

13. The Pharaohs- The most commanding vocals of this album thus far- and that's saying something. 'I want the Pharaohs, but there's only men'- looking for a sugar daddy, clearly- some Pharaohs are, like, 5000 years old, afterall. Love the slightly fairground ending.

14. Red Tide- Something a little different- this song packs more of a punch than the rest of the album. This song has a little more back bone, and the kind of instrumentals that can actually contend with Case's vocals. Love it.

15. Marais la Nuit- Translates to 'The Night Marsh'- literally half an hour of frog noises from Neko's farm in Vermont. I guess I should've seen this coming, since the album is packed with natural imagery. Pitchfork said this track shows: ' just how thoroughly Case has imagined her own little world on these three albums and how thoroughly she rules that realm.' Really, I think it's a little unnecessary- it's like whale music, but without the relaxing part. In short: a little pointless.

All in all, a very good album. Could do with revising timing (make 'Marais la Nuit' shorter, and everything else longer), but remarkable vocals and a very strong sound nonetheless.

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