NPR is streaming the new Neko Case album so I don’t have to wait out these last few days before the album is officially released…  I’ll drink to that!  The album is just about as quirky as the fabulous promo photo: irreverent, enigmatic and beautiful.  I can’t say these are the best songs Neko’s ever put to record, but her voice has never been more impressive.  It’s not the melodies I’m listening for so much as all the many aspects of her singing. 

Jason Creps

Jason Creps

I recently watched the DVD of Rufus doing Judy! Judy! Judy!, and I was shocked by his total lack of phrasing.  In all truth, I don’t quite understand what phrasing is, but I suppose it has something to do with a singer’s technique of interpretting a song’s core emotions. Though Rufus possesses a beautiful sound, he finds it easier ham up his performances than to really travel inside of a song.  Neko sports such exquisite tone and phrasing that you intuitively feel the meaning of songs that are otherwise oblique. 

I have a weakness for sad songs and the title track on MIDDLE CYCLONE  just stops me short.  This is the first song I’ve heard that inhabits every corner of disappointment: disappointment in life, love, and one’s own worth.  And, yet, this sound is righteous.  I am not in love, at present, and it’s not an excitement I’ve been missing… until I heard this song.  I’m not sure if I miss the thrall or the heartbreak, but I do know that it all seems necessary again.  Sad as this song is, it finds redemption, ultimately.  If this world’s hurts can register so deeply then this must be a life worth living.  The best things are not trivial… and so their loss is epic. 
The counterpoint to “Middle Cyclone’s” ethereal strains and lofty sighs is “Prison Girls.”  This song is one unlikely stew.  It spits out fevered visions and a pulsing bass line.  The film noir imagery summons happy remembrances of BLACKLISTED and FURNACE ROOM LULLABY. The music and rhythm draw on many disparate traditions.  The central beat harks back to classic work songs and I like how this simple pounding relates scenes of mopping prison girls to hammering railroad workers or quarry men or field boys.  All of these scenes suggest forced labor and it’s interesting that this connection is drawn entirely through musical cues.  The other major influence I hear is cabaret music.  I imagine watching a performance of this suggestive number in a seedy Weimar club.  I can’t identify exactly how German decadence fits in to this song so I’ll just say that hers seems the logical next head for the Brecht-Waits-… crown. 
More reactions to this album are likely forthcoming.  For now, I’m just thankful for the early listen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: