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Neko Case looks formidable on the cover of Middle Cyclone, brandishing a sword in one hand while crouching low on the hood of a muscle car. It's mostly camp, of course -- the sort of superwoman image that Quentin Tarantino might have used for Death Proof's ad campaign -- but it also draws contrast with Case's past albums, two of which featured moody shots of the songwriter sprawled on the floor, ostensibly knocked out. Middle Cyclone isn't the polar opposite of Blacklisted's downcast Americana; there are still moments of heartbreak on this release, and Case channels the sad cowgirl blues with all the nuance of Patsy Cline. Multiple years in the New Pornographers' lineup have brightened her outlook, though, and Middle Cyclone balances its melancholia with some of the most pop-influenced choruses of Case's career. "I'm a man-man-maneater," she sings on "People Got a Lotta Nerve," a snappy gem of vocal harmonies and jangled guitars. The mammal metaphors continue with "I'm an Animal," where a coed choir hums a wordless, hooky refrain. These songs are still filled with earth tones -- they may even pitch their tent closer to the folk camp than Carl Newman's power pop -- but their venture into brighter territory is a confident one. Of course, Neko Case already explored the animal world with 2006's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, and Middle Cyclone devotes more time to weather, nature, and the stormy atmospherics provided by her backup band. There are few voices as haunting as Case's alto, and she flaunts her vocal chops over a number of semi-ballads, from the cinematic "Prison Girls" (a country-noir love letter to someone with "long shadows and gunpowder eyes") to the sparse title track. She does a surprise duet with chirping birds during "Polar Nettles" -- a result of the pastoral recording sessions, which took place in a barn -- before tackling a cover of Sparks' "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth," whose title very well may be the album's mission statement. There's still room to tackle love from the perspective of different characters -- a man in "Vengeance Is Sleeping," a disbeliever in "The Next Time You Say Forever," a smitten wind vortex in "This Tornado Loves You" -- but nature remains at the forefront of Middle Cyclone, whose 14 songs conclude with a half-hour field recording of noisy crickets and frogs. Moody and engaging throughout, Cyclone is another tour de force from Neko Case, if not as immediately arresting as Fox Confessor.
Performance CreditsNeko Case Primary Artist,Electric Guitar,Tambourine,Vocals,Background Vocals,8-string Guitar
Steve Berlin Organ,Saxophone,MIDI Sax
Joey Burns Bass,Cello,Bowed Bass
Kelly Hogan Background Vocals
Garth Hudson Organ,Piano
Carl Newman Background Vocals,Choir, Chorus
John Convertino Drums
Howe Gelb Piano,Electric Guitar
Sarah Harmer Vocals
Kurt Heasley Guitar,Background Vocals,Choir, Chorus
Jon Rauhouse Acoustic Guitar,Pedal Steel Guitar,Hawaiian Guitar,Hawaiian Lap Steel Guitar
Dallas Good Electric Guitar,Fuzz Guitar
Travis Good Electric Guitar
Carolyn Mark Background Vocals
Nora O'Connor Background Vocals
M. Ward Acoustic Guitar
Rachel Flotard Background Vocals,Choir, Chorus
Tom V. Ray Bass Guitar
Barry Mirochnick Drums
Paul Rigby Organ,Dulcimer,Acoustic Guitar,Piano,Electric Guitar,Music Box,Guitar (12 String Electric),Guitar (12 String Acoustic)
Lucy Roche Background Vocals
Tara Szczygielski Violin
Carloyn Mark Background Vocals
Technical CreditsHarry Nilsson Composer
Ron Mael Composer
Neko Case Composer,Executive Producer,Artwork,Audio Production,Drawing
Craig Schumacher overdub engineer
Chris Schultz overdub engineer
Nick Luca overdub engineer
Paul Rigby Arranger
Robert Myers Photo Courtesy
Lewis Stillwell Photo Courtesy
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have thoroughly enjoyed this album. Being a more recent fan of Neko, I fell in love with her Blacklisted album. This is certainly a continuance of her Fox Confessor sound -- easy to listen to, easy to love. There isn't a song on this album that I dislike. She is one unbelievably talented woman. Her voice gives me chills...good ones. If you enjoyed Blacklisted or Fox Confessor, I reckon this is right up your alley!
This record demands repeated listenings. Without a doubt, one of the best records of the decade. The sequencing and pacing is perfect. Push play on your Cd player and let this album reveal its endearing charms, hooks, lyrics, and Neko's wonderful voice. A masterpiece.
As always, Neko is experimenting with different sounds and has created yet another masterpiece in her style. It's hard to describe her work in comparison to anything else as it stands out and alone from all other artists, but this album is fantastic. Staying away from all conventions, she creates sounds, lines and rythms not found any where else in music today and unfortunately, you don't hear these real gems of musical creativity on commercial radio. Her beautiful voice and soulful, even haunting, lyrics really reach into a person's soul and make your mind reel for a deeper understanding of such a passion for creativity and our connections to this world. Neko's voice, by itself, is something to behold--add in beautiful song writing, instrumentals and back-ups and you have a work of art. I highly recommend this album, along with all of her previous works.