Queen of ethereal alt-country, Neko Case has spent the last few years bouncing between her solo career and her part-time gig with the New Pornographers.
Her latest, Middle Cyclone, provides a whirlwind of poetry and floating vocals as only Neko can create.
She appears on the cover ready for battle: crouched atop a vintage car, sword-drawn, her trademark fiery red hair tucked behind her.
The album starts with This Tornado Loves You, a slightly frenetic semi-love song and the warning-filled The Next Time You Say ‘Forever.’
People Gotta Lotta Nerve is poppy and about as close to Neko ever gets to a dance tune with the reprise, “But I’m a man man man man man man man eater/But still you’re surprised ‘prised ‘prised when I eat ya.” It’s the perfect choice for the first single.
Polar Nettles, Vengeance is Sleeping and Magpie to the Morning have the oozy, hypnotic sound of tracks off Fox Confessor Brings the Flood while Red Tide and Fever are delivered more directly.
The title track, Middle Cyclone is one of the many on the album to feature the “piano orchestra” comprised of a half-dozen pianos collected from Craigslist.
Neko manages to take ownership of the two covers, Harry Nilsson’s Don’t Forget Me and The Sparks’ Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth, both of which are executed with the highest level of individuality.
The album was made mostly in a barn on a farm in Vermont with help from her usual band of merry music makers including Kelly Hogan, Jon Rauhouse and Paul Rigby along with some guests – various member of the Sadies, the New Pornographers, Calexico and Lobos as well as M. Ward, Sarah Hammer and Garth Hudson.
The final track, which Neko has referred to as the “post album chill-out section” is the 32-minute long Marais La Nuit (loosely translated as “the marsh at night”) consisting of a looped tape of some near-by frogs is an interesting choice but easily skipped.