Solo careers can be really interesting, sometimes an artist takes their band’s sound and just emulates that, and sometimes they completely change gears, Neko Case is the latter. While most know her from the weird indie-pop-rock of The New Pornographers, but she’s spent most of her solo career as an alt-country artist. She started her solo work when they started recording and joined on their second album. Recently though, she’s mixed in some interesting sounds and some sophisticated guitar work that culminated in her fifth album, Middle Cyclone, an album that pulls of a constant tone without getting repetitive.
The album opens on the amazing “This Tornado Loves You,” a song that mixes the tornado’s rush with beautiful sophistication, an amazing composition on every note but the clear star above all the incredible instrumentation is Case’s powerful vocals that peak at the goosebump-inducing “WHAT WILL MAKE YOU BELIEVE ME?” “The Next Time You Say Forever” slows things down and opens things up, allowing Case’s voice to echo with some beautiful strings and an autoharp. Case’s country sound shows its teeth on “People Got A Lotta Nerve” without any less sophistication, both the guitars and drums sound great and the chorus is just as catchy as any song on the album.
On “Vengeance Is Sleeping” Case pulls out some of the most incredible sounding acoustic guitar playing on any record I’ve heard, and her echoey vocals sound perfect here. With the perfectly added piano and amazing arrangement this song is my most listened track on the record. “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth” is a delightfully strange song that really shines through it’s string arrangements, vocals and some excellent drum mixing.
“Prison Girls” is one of those songs that buries an albums most exciting vocals in its strangest tones, making it impossible to lose once you’re hooked. The imagery is intense with lines like “I miss your long shadows and gunpowder eyes” but the power of the song comes when Case drops her “oh oh OOOHHH” section, that’s as haunting as it is catchy. “Don’t Forget Me” is as bittersweet as it gets, there’s a distinct sadness to Case’s voice but a genuine happiness to tone and lyrics, the song has a honest nature to it that pushes it above many similar songs that just seem throwaway. Lastly is my favourite song of the album, “Pharaohs,” opening with the ringing of Case’s voice and lines like “You Spoke the words ‘I love girls in white leather jackets'” that somehow fit perfectly, and changing into its mysterious and dark sounding pre-chorus before blooming into the amazing “You said I was your blue blue baby” that feels more powerful every time.
Fun fact: The album ends on 30 minutes of nature sounds. Another fun fact: I’ll be listing some of Case’s older work soon, as well as her new album.