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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Neko Case a force of nature in Middle Cyclone

    With masterly control, emotive elegance and a larger-than-life presence, Neko Case’s voice is as haunting and unforgettable as first love. Her voice acts as a force similar to the characters that populate the songs on her new album, Middle Cyclone, which proves to be her best to date. In this album, the listener finds a world populated by a lovelorn tornado, a man-eating woman and a wise magpie, among others. What connects this eclectic cast throughout the album, is a desire for love in whatever guise it may take. This love can range from the willful passion in the opener, “”This Tornado Loves You,”” which is about an actual tornado chasing its love and leaving a path of death and destruction in its wake, to the smart-ass yearning in the Harry Nilsson cover, “”Don’t Forget Me,”” which finds Case confessing, without any hint of sarcasm, “”I’ll miss you when I’m lonely / I’ll miss the alimony, too.””

    Rivulets of country, folk, pop and rock seep their way throughout her music. This has led some reviewers to label it as alt-country or Americana, but the music evades easy definition. It can adopt different qualities: loping (“”People Got a Lotta Nerve””), hypnotic (“”Prison Girls””), or spiritual (Sparks’ “”Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth””).Case conveys a stronger confidence in her songwriting on Middle Cyclone, with songs that shun the typical verse-chorus-verse pattern found on most rock and pop albums. Instead, she meanders along lyrical paths until the songs reach their surprisingly natural destination. For example, in “”Middle Cyclone,”” the centerpiece of the album, Case reaches a reluctant realization: “”Can’t give up acting tough / It’s all that I’m made of / Can’t scrape together quite enough / To ride the bus to the outskirts of the fact that I need love.””

    The atypical nature of Middle Cyclone – it ends with a field recording of chirping crickets and frogs that lasts for half an hour – can make it sound disjointed at first. But with a powerful voice that binds the album together, Case’s musical world lingers in the mind as strongly as the memories of that first love, even after the final notes fade away.

    Rating: ****

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