Friday, March 6, 2009

Will Fight for Furnace

Steven M. Deusner's review of Neko Case's Middle Cyclone is pretty thoughtful, especially this:

What ties everything together is her unmistakable voice. Pushing herself, she shows off a few new tricks in these songs. On "People Got a Lot of Nerve", she fashions one of the album's best hooks from the repeated syllables of "man man man eater", then ascends a vertiginous scale on the bridge, hitting that impossibly high note with no loss of tone. She layers her voice to create an airy chorus on "Magpie to the Morning" and a dramatic gospel on her cover of Sparks' "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth". "Prison Girls" may be her best performance here, with an emphatic vocal that gives the chorus-- "I love your long shadows and your gunpowder eyes"-- new meaning and greater menace with each repetition.
Luxuriating in her voice is boilerplate for a Neko Case album review, but only in the way that reveling in the prose is boilerplate for a Nabokov book review: miss that and you might as well not have bothered. But no quibbling intended: Deusner has successfully highlighted some fine and powerful moments from this new album's vocal offerings.

Still, I suffered a coughing fit upon reading this:
That 2002 album [Blacklisted] marked a turning point for Case as she abandoned the straightforward country-soul of 2000's Furnace Room Lullaby for a spookier sound that favors odd song structures and odder imagery about serial killers, downed planes, and automobile accidents.
Furnace Room Lullaby featured straightforward country-soul? Evidently Mr. Deusner and I sharply disagree on what constitutes "straightforward" and what's "spookier" and "odd" by comparison, for I say there's more than a few dollups of the spooky in Furnace Room Lullaby's "South Tacoma Way," which is essentially a ghost sighting turned to song; and the title track is as oddly-structured, spooky and otherwise radio-unfriendly as a song could be (and yet marvelous). "Twist the Knife" is by itself a storehouse of curiosities in an album that features more mood swings and unexpected turns than some entire musical careers.

Tread carefully around Furnace Room Lullaby, Stephen M. Deusner! I will duel for its honor -- baseball bats at dawn if necessary.

Links to this and other reviews of Middle Cyclone (via wikipedia page):

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