American singer/songwriter Neko Case demonstrates her status as a true vocal presence and a writer of atmospheric music on her sixth album, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You.
Despite the Fiona Apple-like overlong title, Case’s new album is a tastefully-paced series of luminous snippets of longing ballads and tough bursts of electricity.
The Virginia-born musician’s voice recalls early, pure mid-20th century sounds that merge into her own realm of Americana or alternative folk-rock.
Night Still Comes has a twilight undercurrent that’s casual but insistent. Her voice is dreamlike: “You never held it at the right angle/Catch a falling star/Wash your hands of it/Catch a falling star/Because you can’t hold it.” The lyric sums up the appeal of her music.
Man reverses that quality with a surge of electric guitar and drums, recalling Case’s early forays into pop music as a new wave/punk rock drummer. But Case moves from there into a beautiful country lament called Nearly Midnight, Honolulu, that shifts to a statement of apology, done a cappella. Her voice in this stark setting has its own cushion of character.
The two-sided personality of Case’s music is reflected clearly in I’m From Nowhere – an image-laden piece of travel, musical biography and inner resolve. She keeps the edge of an old country folk tune musing in the background as her voice cuts through the chords like a parlour singer in old-time Appalachia.
She sounds alone, but she’s not lonely.
— Dean Gordon-Smith is a musician based in Vernon B.C. who reviews new music releases for The Morning Star.