My Case for Case
I feel like I've been missing out on something beautiful and amazing for far too long. Her name is Neko Case.
I recall a trip to CD Source years ago with my friend Leslie--she was gushing about The New Pornographers, and accordingly purchased Mass Romantic. We listened to "Letters from and Occupant" several times on the car ride home. For all intents and purposes, it's the quintessential indie pop song--and who did that distinct voice belong to? Especially the part - "where've all sensations gone?" Woah, blown away by that powerhouse. I'd been told by several, "that's Neko Case, she does solo work" and blah, blah, blah.
For whatever reason, I let the recommendation fall to the wayside--perhaps because I was too busy satiating my ridiculous Brit-rock appetite with Ocean Colour Scene's greatest hits and spending far too long scouring the internet for any song I could find by The Boo Radleys. And for whatever reason, I was feeling especially prejudicial against "solo albums." Don't ask me why; I can't come up with an explanation or excuse other than that I was at a raw, blossoming music snob at 16 years old with no real basis in reason for most of my musical antipathies. This, coming from the girl who asked for the DVD of Xanadu for Hannukah. (I still have it, by the way.)
Despite my warped "opinions", (and thanks to a particularly fantastic solo album by New Pornographers' A.C. Newman), I eventually meandered back to Ms. Case. The first song I listened to was "Look For Me (I'll Be Around)"--very loungey, very alluring. But what really caught me was "Maybe Sparrow" from her most recent effort, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Upon first listen, I really dug those lyrics--I am of the opinion that there are far too few songs written about the shortcomings of tiny birds. And her voice! That rich, sonorous cry was probably what killed the sparrow in the first place. She's got to be careful with that voice--it's a weapon of mass destruction. The best kind.
Next was "Hold On, Hold On." Though her lyrics are still rather cryptic and difficult to discern the real story, I got this distinct feeling of delicious disaffection and kind of a jaded betrayal. "That echo chorus lied to me with its 'hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on.'" What happened, Neko? I think we've all been there. Thanks for writing a song about it--it makes me feel better about my idealist pratfalls, and I can take comfort in the cynical twin living inside my head that occasionally emerges and causes procrastination, gluttony, and dining on too much Taco Bell. (Though I'm wary of calling that "dining.") "It's the devil I love, and it's as funny as real love." Not precisely what she really means, but I can make my guesses.
Another favorite? "Star Witness" -- also from Fox Confessor. She weaves together a strange, sad story with that brilliant voice of hers, hitting some sublime high notes while she's at it. Another one that boasts her vocal prowess, from Blacklisted, is "Deep Red Bells" -- she suddenly booms out this amazing chorus, knocking everything over. It almost comes unexpected.
Case was banned from the Grand Ole Opry for taking her shirt off mid-show. "She got hot" was her delightfully glib explanation. Wow. All I can say is that the Grand Ole Opry made one--well, perhaps two lamentable mistakes. (har har.)
At one particular show, she responded to fans shrieking out song requests with "Why don't you shut up, you hipster indie snobs!" Wow again. I'm not typically so keen on an artist who heckles her fans, but Neko isn't necessarily a pretentious or condescending type from what I've gathered. She's blunt, often wry, no-nonsense, and has quite the sense of humor. The travelogue on her website is a wonderful insight into her personality, in which she documents several stops along her tours and other amusing ramblings involving food, her greyhound, music, and even porn. And yes, I've read every entry.
Someone as self-posessed and musically gifted/vocally endowed as Neko Case is worthy of admiration/adoration, and she's certainly not lost on me. So there's that.