Artist to Watch

WXPN Radio

The premier guide for new and significant artists in rock, blues, and folk - including NPR-syndicated World Cafe

XPN2 - XPoNential Radio

24/7 Musical discovery. A unique mix of emerging and heritage blues, rock, world, folk, and alt-country artists.

World Cafe Archives

Join the World Cafe through performances and interviews with celebrated and emerging artists.
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size

Neko Case - Middle Cyclone - Anti

It's easy to be captivated by Middle Cyclone, the new album from Neko Case. Those enchanting vocals have returned, striking a familiar balance between her alt-country tendencies and indie-pop sensibilities. And while Case's viability as a solo artist skyrocketed after the release of Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, it's fair to say that on Middle Cyclone the spotlight shines just as bright.

One thing that's stunning is Case's consistency as a songwriter. While each song on Middle Cyclone has its own personality, the formula doesn't vary too much. Forget about solos or instrumental passages, each song is compact, dense and reliant on Case's strongest qualities; her incredible voice and dynamic lyrics. Take the song "The Next Time You Say Forever", a heart-breaking love written with cutting wit, where she threatens "...the next time you say forever, I'll punch you in the face".

Case builds her songs on story and atmosphere, only to take flight when she opens her mouth. Credit her remarkable voice, but a cast of friends lend a hand to create a sonically rich foundation. Joey Burns of Calexico appears on the record playing cello on a number of songs including the album leadoff "This Tornado Loves You". Choral backings from band members Kelly Hogan and Lucy Wainwright Roche add to an already radiant vocal performance. M. Ward, Garth Hudson and Sarah Harmer also contribute to Middle Cyclone.

The standouts are not difficult to find on Middle Cyclone. From the opening track to "I'm An Animal" and the lone song to coast over 5 minutes, "Prison Girls", which features Case repeating seductively "I love your long shadows and your gunpowder eyes", the album is equally beautiful as it is haunting. Make room on your favorites list so far this year. Neko Case is back.

Written by Mike Vasilikos