Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

March 4, 2009

nekocaseMy first reaction as I listened to the first half of Neko Case’s latest album, Middle Cyclone, was that it was a classic. The opening tracks are an often brilliant and sometimes outright thrilling mix of country and pop, with a decidedly strong emphasis on the latter, so much so that some listeners may be inclined to dub this Case’s “pop album.” I wouldn’t go that far, as her music still retains a strong foundation in country, but the album is pop enough to include covers by Sparks (“Never Turn Your Back On Mother Nature”) and Harry Nilsson (“Don’t Forget Me”). The second half of the album doesn’t hold up quite as well, and then there’s that final track, “Marais La Nuit,” 31 minutes of mostly cricket noises at night, recorded by Case herself. Nevertheless, I can safely say I love this record, anyway. It’s a risky, ambitious rumination on love and other natural forces, and in its best moments, it’s intelligent and funny, possessed of a rough-edged beauty and power. And Case’s amazing voice has never sounded better. Maybe classic is the wrong word for Middle Cyclone. Flawed masterpiece sounds about right. Standout cuts: “This Tornado Loves You,” “People Got A Lotta Nerve,” “Vengeance Is Sleeping” and “Middle Cyclone.”


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