Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone

I’m not a huge fan of great voices in music–I’m much more about the lyrics, and if the musician croaks that’s just fine. But Neko Case is one of those performers whose voice hooks me in. I would probably be quite happy hearing her sing the phone book. But she also has killer lyrics, and a shifting country/pop/rock sensibility that means her CDs share certain commonalities but also have enough differences to make her consistently interesting. Also, some albums are performed with her Boyfriends back-up band, and some aren’t.

Her latest, “Middle Cyclone,” is mid-tempo for the most part, and reveals its secrets stealthily. Some songs like “Mother Earth” are never going to be for me, but on balance this is another fine CD, with lots of little subtle touches. It doesn’t hurt that the CD ends with ten-plus minutes of soothing tree frog croaking, titled “Marais La Nuit”.

One particular lyric that stood out:

“I love your long shadows
and your gunpowder eyes.”

And, this, which makes sense even though I can’t tell you what kind of sense:

“Humming helicopters through the blades of a fan.”

Anyway, I’d rank this in the middle of my Neko Case collection–it’s indeed a middle cyclone–but since I like all of her stuff, that’s not a bad thing.


  1. says

    “I love your long shadows
    and your gunpowder eyes.”

    I sat and listened to this whole album, and that lyric is really unbelievable (not to mention her voice). I’m in total agreement with you there. The entire album is great, but that particular track just floored me. I had anticipated writing while listening, and ended up just listening to the whole album with the headphones on, staring at my word processor. I love when music wrests you from the normal world like that. (Thanks for the video, too!)

  2. says

    Knock Loud is my personal all time favorite song of hers, but man… If you ever get a chance to see her live, do so. She’s one of those folks who makes *every* song an A-Lister when she does’em live.

    On the subject of weird country music with great lyrics, have you heard The Handsome Family?

  3. says

    The little bit I’ve heard here reminds me of a mellower Lucinda Williams. Which is, of course, a pretty good thing of which to be reminded.

  4. says

    I think I’m the opposite – I’d choose the quality of the voice and its use as an instrument before the lyrics. A song catches me musically before I sit down and listen to the content. I don’t think I could listen to an artist if they’re music is lousy or dull just because their lyrics are great. Fortunately for me, I think my tastes are strong enough that the kind of music I’m attracted to is written by artists who also write intelligent lyrics. I haven’t heard Neko Case before, but shall check her out soon.

  5. jeff vandermeer says

    Seth–well of course re the music matterd. but quality of voice doesn’t matter to me if it fits the music.

  6. says

    I’m totally a late-comer to Neko. Have no idea how I missed her, considering my other musical tastes. But hey, it’s like a present, albeit a late one!

  7. Lane says

    She’s one of those I’ve meant to listen to for a while, but never got around to. But she’s playing in town, with Crooked Fingers as the opener (which is why I was planning on going to the show in the first place, otherwise I may not pay so much for a performer I’m unfamiliar with) this weekend, so I’ll probably have a bunch of albums to buy come Monday.

  8. GabrielM says

    I’ve been listening to it prettty obsessively for the last week or so. I quite like it. That will have to stop, though, as I got the new Decemberists. And the new Mastodon.