Itâ€™s already been established (see below) that I canâ€™t even attempt neutrality when talking about Neko Case. Iâ€™m in love with her, plain and simple. Iâ€™m married, but I think even my wife understands, or at least as much as I can understand her love for Zach Braff. But donâ€™t let my bald adoration turn you away, because itâ€™s Nekoâ€™s mind you should love, man. Her mastery of lyrical storytelling is nearly in a league with Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynne, Emmylou Harris, and Willie Nelson, and â€œnearlyâ€ only because she hasnâ€™t been around as long. The angelic tenor of her voice, rendered with a ballroom echo, is sublime, and the stories themselves possess the exquisite detail and suspense, the juxtaposition of familiarity and esoteric conceit, of the finest Flannery Oâ€™ Connor tales. And donâ€™t forget that, lest you complain (and, really, itâ€™s the only complaint Iâ€™ll accept about my beloved) that the sonic similarities between tracks is a hair too close, Neko is pushing the boundaries of American roots music by night while she and the New Pornographers keep inching toward the perfect pop song by day. Iâ€™m well aware that this is the kind of adoring write-up that could come back to haunt me. Oh well. Love makes us do crazy things.
I fell in love with Neko Case one night when, at a New Pornographers show, she settled a couple of song-requesting hecklers with the admonishment, “Why don’t you shut up, you hipster indie snobs!” My heart’s still a-flutter at the memory. Besides her, ahem, no-nonsense outlook, she has one of the most distinctive voices in music today — one that handles the pogo-for-grownups extremities of the aforementioned Pornographers with the same hypnotics as the roadhouse anthems she constructs fronting her own band. Better yet, she does it live on this pair from her latest offering to hopeless romantics like myself.
If You Knew [MP3, 5.8MB, 320kbps]
Train From Kansas City [MP3, 7.9MB, 320kbps]