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