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.
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.