Neko Case: Middle Cyclone


“Just because you don’t believe it/ Doesn’t mean I didn’t mean it,” Neko Case sings on “The Next Time You Say Forever,” one of the many superb tracks on her sixth solo album, Middle Cyclone. Believe this: Case has turned in an album that easily ranks among her best—quite possibly the best of her career.
Often praised for her vocals, Case excels there and everywhere else, singing about tornadoes, killer whales, magpies, and Mother Earth—natural subjects that continue to inspire her. The buildup of “This Tornado Loves You,” a fine album opener, sets the tone for Cyclone’s grand themes: the swirling and intoxicating mysteries between forever and never. Case’s voice and writing is caught at both ends, and she proves to be as open-minded as ever.
The title track is pure beauty. “Can’t scrape together quite enough/ To ride the bus to the outskirts of the fact that I need love,” Case sings on “Middle Cyclone,” an honest tune that recalls one of her best songs, Furnace Room Lullaby’s “South Tacoma Way.” With just an acoustic guitar and an eerie hidden piano comforting her voice, I want to believe that it’s something personal she’s singing about, but like the fiercest cyclone, it’s hard to tell which direction it originated—or where it is headed. You have no way of knowing; you can only make an educated guess while you’re lurking in the ditch.
The first single, “People Got a Lotta Nerve,” is the most straightforward and poppy tune, but it still delivers a serious message that only Case could pull off when she sings “I’m a man-man-maneater/ But still you’re surprised-prised-prised when I eat ya.” Even the two cover songs, Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me” and Sparks’ “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth,” have sharp teeth that intensify Cyclone’s all or nothing approach.

In the end, Case goes all Wilco on us, supplying almost 32 minutes of cricket and other various insect noises—only she’s smart enough to make it the last track on the album. It’s sort of a soothing way to announce that the tornado has passed, and that hearts are still beating and possibly bleeding at the same time—caught at both ends, just the way Neko Case likes it.

People Got A Lotta Nerve – Neko Case

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