Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone

I’ve often said that music is one of those things that helps me get through life, and makes it worth living. About a month ago, Neko Case released the excellent Middle Cyclone, a record that I’ve been listening to a lot, and has played a part in getting me through the stresses of moving and buying a house.

Back in January, Neko and her record label released a free MP3 of “People Got A Lot Of Nerve”, a song which has a deceptively bright sound, but with lyrics that are a bit on the dark side. I was intrigued and couldn’t wait for the album to come out.

sample of People Got A Lot Of Nerve by Neko Case (mp3)

So the saying says, “An elephant never forgets.”
Standing in the concrete cave, swaying sad and insane.
They walked over the ocean, in their dreams they dream awake,
Until the lights grew dim, until the cop cars came.
Everybody tells me this is crazy, yes I know it.
I’m a man, man, man, man, man, man eater.
But still you’re surprised-prised-prised when I eat you.

You know, they call them “killer” whales?!
But you seem surprised,
When it pinned you down to the bottom of the tank,
Where you can’t turn around.
It took half your leg, and both your lungs.
“When I craved I ate hearts of sharks, I know you know it.”
I’m a man, man, man, man, man, man eater.
But still you’re surprised-prised-prised when I eat you.

It will end again in bullets friend…

Animal and nature imagery are very present on this record. One of my current favorite tracks, “Magpie To The Morning” is a perfect example.

sample of Magpie To The Morning by Neko Case (mp3)

Neko’s lyrics have often leaned a bit surrealistic. On “This Tornado Loves You” (the album’s opening track) she sings about a cyclone, chasing her down because of its undying love for her. As I heard Neko tell NPR, the track was inspired by a dream she had.

sample of This Tornado Loves You by Neko Case (mp3)

There are so many wonderful layers to her music. Even in the simple “Middle Cyclone” (also available as a free MP3 from Anti- records), you’ve got a solitary guitar, her beautiful voice, ethereal background vocals, interludes from a music box, and those marvelous lyrics.

sample of Middle Cyclone by Neko Case (mp3)

Baby, why am I worried now?
Did someone make a fool of me,
‘Fore I could show ’em how it’s done?
I can’t give up acting tough,
It’s all that I’m made of.
Can’t scrape together quite enough,
To ride the bus, to the outskirts,
Of the fact that I need love.

There were times, that I tried.
One for every glass of water that I spilled,
Next to the bed, retching pennies in a boiling well,
In a dream,
That at once becomes a foundry of mute and heavy bells.
They shake me deaf and dumb.
Say, “Someone made a fool of me,
‘Fore I could show ’em how it’s done.”

It was so clear to me,
that it was almost invisible.
I lie across the path waiting,
Just for a chance to be,
A spiderweb, trapped in your lashes.
For that, I would trade you my empire for ashes.
But I choke it back, how much I need love…

With all those layers, it’s still that gorgeous voice that stands out for me. I could probably be mesemerized by listening to Neko Case sing nursery rhymes. Her voice shines beautifully on “The Pharoahs.”

sample of The Pharoahs by Neko Case (mp3)

Toward the end of the album, in the song “Don’t Forget Me,” she reminisces sweetly about a former love. The song’s chorus urges:

Don’t forget me, don’t forget me.
Make it easy, only just for a little while.
You know I think about you,
Let me know you think about me too.

Forget Neko Case? Not a chance.

2 comments on “Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone

  1. I love this post, and I love this album. I’ve listened to it at least once a day since downloading it. I’ve heard Neko Case’s voice described as being as “clear a as a bell” and I couldn’t agree more. Well written.

  2. Thanks for the comment. When I was writing up my best of the year list, I almost chose this as my favorite of the year. Can’t wait to hear Neko’s next album.

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