Middle Cyclone (ANTI-, 3.09)
Byline: Don't pass her off as another lame Starbucks corporate image booster.
For: Liz Phair, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch
It's true, before I met my fiance Neko Case seemed like the woman of my dreams. While all of my freshmen dorm mates put up the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit model I had a page I ripped out of The Big Takeover with Neko in a long black dress reclining wistfully on a couch with her long red hair draped over the divan. I was first smitten in high school when my good friend Justin returned with rave reviews after seeing her play a free show in Denver. On a whim I purchased Blacklisted and was immediately smitten by her commanding, almost guttural, voice that rang clear as a bell through the clang of steel guitars and some what odd instrumentation for a country album. Neko Case has settled onto a nice place in the suburbs after making it out of the Alt-Country ghetto with the release of Blacklisted. Her appeal is universal, from the intense indie-cred of her Canadian supergroup The New Pornographers, to soccer moms and college kids who heard her much touted Fox Confessor Brings the Flood supported heavily by Starbucks, to her legions of aging No Depression fans who pine for the days of Whiskeytown and Uncle Tupelo. Neko Case is a true stateswoman for her generation. Middle Cyclone is a true testament to why. Neko draws upon the expansive conceit of nature in order to pen semi autobiographical tunes that are life affirming, heartbreaking, and at times comical. her songs follow her own volatile paths through her career and the lives of those she loves, "I have waited with a glaciers patience/smashed every transformer with every trailer/65 miles wide/still you are nowhere" to "The next time you say forever I'm going to punch you in the face". Her new found use of nature per metaphor is as far ranging as her childhood home of the Northwest. Songs swell into mountainous choruses and then shrink into the wooded seclusion of a spooky path through the forest where the only sounds made are your feet along the soft wet earth. Plus, the album cover gets my best of 2009 so far.