TMS Music: Neko Case-Middle Cyclone

You've heard this voice before, in your dreams or maybe in an old song on the radio. That voice comes from the past, but is not bound to it. It's the voice of a 50s seductress, a 60s chanteuse, an 80s rock chick, or even a cowgirl balladeer.

Neko Case is all of these things and more. On her newest album, Middle Cyclone, she has crafted her boldest artistic statement to date. Middle Cyclone contains more of Case's oblique lyrics, and the melodies and harmonies she uses to deliver her cryptic message are both haunting and dangerously beautiful.

The album abounds with gorgeous instrumentation from acoustic guitar and piano to the more eclectic touches of music box, carnival organ, and other less easily identifiable sounds. In places there are electric guitar parts that sound if they could have come from the dead hands of Luther Perkins or the sagebrush mind of Ennio Morricone. Above it all is the rise and fall siren call of Neko Case's voice, the most powerful instrument on the album. Whether whisper or howl, her impassioned delivery enfolds you in the world of each song.

And the songs themselves are incredible. From the opening "This Tornado Loves You" about a lovesick twister searching for its lover over a locomotive guitar track to the amazing "Prison Girls" with the wonderful lines "I love your long shadows and your gunpowder eyes" to the various bird references in the lovely "Magpie To the Morning". There's not a bad song here in my opinion. This is an album you'll want to listen to again and again, seeking to unravel its mysteries.

I've been a fan of Neko Case, as well as her work with The New Pornographers for some time. This is easily the best album she's ever done. I know it's only March, but this is my frontrunner for best album of 2009. Something is really going to have to kick my ass to knock this one out of the top spot.

Tracks to Stay Tuned For: "This Tornado Loves You", "Prison Girls", "Magpie to the Morning", "People Got a Lot of Nerve", hell, pretty much the whole thing.

Further Listening: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, The Tigers Have Spoken (live), Blacklisted, Furnace Room Lullabies-Neko Case, Challengers, Electric Version, Twin Cinema, Mass Romantic-The New Pornographers,

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