The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

Middle Cyclone

March 6, 2009

Although we just got the CD yesterday, I’d been listening to Neko Case’s new album (currently #2 in music on Amazon) pretty much non-stop via NPR for a bit. Quick and dirty: not as consistently good as Blacklisted, but an excellent album nonetheless.

Noel Murray’s review pretty much nails it, but Jon Pareles’ review in the New York Times deserves a quotation:

On the surface Ms. Case’s songs qualify as alt-country or Americana. The production often harks back to 1960s and ’70s rock, backing her concise melody lines with finger-picked acoustic guitars or twang and reverb. But surreal, unexpected sounds — echoes, voices, noise — well up within those arrangements. Her version of Harry Nilsson’s whimsically fatalistic “Don’t Forget Me” becomes a lofty expanse of choral voices and multiple pianos.

Her own songs melt down structures. Instead of fixed verses or choruses there are two-chord patterns that run as long as Ms. Case wants, or as short; they might add or subtract a beat, suddenly switch chords or support an entirely new tune in mid-song. Subliminally that rhapsodic approach keeps the songs off balance and suspenseful, ready for every possibility of disaster or exaltation.

If you haven’t joined the Cult of Case, this album is a pretty damn decent introduction to its rewards.

And there’s also a promotional “making of” video to watch.

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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.