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Darling Neko

By The Beachwood Neko Case Affairs Desk

Neko Case is no longer a Chicagoan - and no longer even on Chicago-based Bloodshot Records - but we still like to claim her as one of our own. We knew her when.

Now Case has wrapped up the biggest year of her career and the accolades have tumbled in; year-end best lists almost all include her release Middle Cyclone near the top. Let's take a look.

Publication: Pitchfork
Year-End Ranking:: 21
Comment: "Arguably Neko Case's best album in a decade, Middle Cyclone plays like the culmination of all her guiding eccentricities, as if Blacklisted and Fox Confessor Brings the Flood were just warm-ups for the real thing. Here Case sings about amorous storm fronts, menacing red tides, truly killer whales, alarming magpies, and other fauna that manifest particular conditions of the human soul. She's singing about common alt- and mainstream country themes - broken hearts, wandering spirits, chilling loneliness, the nature of nature - but no one bends traditional Americana sounds to fit her eccentricities so perfectly, getting at these issues through tangential songwriting and force-of-nature vocals. Plus, with Middle Cyclone Case accomplished three undeniable superlatives: the coolest album cover of 2009, the most bizarre album closer (30 minutes of looped frog noises), and the loveliest love song, no matter that it was told from the point of view of a tornado in love with a lost child." (Stephen M. Deusner)

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Publication: New York Times
Year-End Ranking: 5 (right after Green Day and U2)
Comment: "Middle Cyclone can sound at first like a throwback to 1970s folk-pop and country-rock, with tiers of pretty acoustic and electric guitars and Ms. Case's incandescent voice. But the songs hold calamities both human and environmental: romantic betrayals, deaths, dangerous animals, a lovesick tornado. Ms. Case is just as willful about song structures, dissolving verses and choruses into rhapsodic declamation and insistent refrains, subliminally demonstrating that anything can happen." (Jon Pareles)

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Publication: AV Club/Onion
Year-End Ranking: 6
Comment: "Until 2006's Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, the attention paid to Neko Case tended to focus on her soaring voice - for good reason - but that record and its successor, Middle Cyclone, prove her skill as a songwriter, arranger, and interpreter. Fox Confessor was a great artistic leap forward, and Middle Cyclone plays like its sibling - it doesn't leap ahead so much as take another step. It also feels more focused; where Fox Confessor willfully bucked traditional songwriting composition (who needs a chorus?), Middle Cyclone has more grounding, like the catchy repetition in the chorus of 'People Got A Lotta Nerve' and thudding percussion of 'I'm An Animal.' Case remains devoted to her flighty muse, whether it steers her toward a song that's literally about a tornado loving a person (the fantastic opener 'This Tornado Loves You') or employing an orchestra of used pianos she found on Craigslist. What she creates makes her one of today's most idiosyncratic but enthralling artists. And the album cover - Case brandishing a sword atop an old muscle car - just kicks ass." (Kyle Ryan)

*

Publication: Tribune
Year-End Ranking: 6
Comment: "She's always had a big voice and made fine albums, but now the melodies are more indelible, the arrangements more inventive, the emotional depth matched by the richness of the sound." (Greg Kot)

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Publication: Sun-Times
Year-End Ranking: 2
Comment: "On a music scene that reboots itself with fresh faces every other week, it's easy to take a 39-year-old talent on her sixth solo album for granted. But former Chicagoan Neko Case made the strongest disc of her career, turning that unrivaled voice loose on metaphors involving tornadoes, earthquakes and enough animals to fill a good-sized zoo, and proving to be nothing short of a force of nature herself." (Jim DeRogatis)

*

Publication: Things That Go Pop!/CBC
Year-End Ranking: 7
Comment: "Honourary Canadian and sometime New Pornographer Neko Case scored a major breakthrough with Middle Cyclone, which debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts and received a pair of Grammy noms. The accolades are well deserved. Case infuses her parables about wild beasts (people are included in that category) with a sense of pure reverence for Mother Nature - a quality underscored by the birdsong and chirping frogs that she gently folds into the background. Just as awe-inspiring, however, is the revelatory power contained in Case's ringing bell of a voice."

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PLUS: "The biggest gong came last month when Middle Cyclone earned Case her first Grammy nominations: one for best contemporary folk album and one for best recording package for the album's striking cover (designed by fine-arts graduate Case and fellow artist Kathleen Judge)."

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on January 11, 2010


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