Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
Acquired: King’s Road Merch Mailorder, New, 2013
When I first heard Middle Cyclone, my first response was: “More like Middling Cyclone.” I thought this because after falling deeply in love with Neko Case’s previous album—Fox Confessor Brings the Flood—I had high expectations. And I was enough of a dipshit to realize that my expectations had been met. The thing with Middle Cyclone is that it’s a long record. Or at least feels like a long record (the last half hour of the thing is just crickets and night noises, so maybe that adds to my perception that this is a long player in every sense of the word). Since Neko Case is pretty much Jenny’s favorite artist hands down (we are seeing her in Lawrence in October and every couple days she alerts me to this fact), I bought her this and Furnace Room Lullaby on vinyl for our anniversary. We listen to this one a lot on trips back to Kansas and every time I hear it, the more I like it. Still, it took until I listened to it on vinyl (the album is split over two LPs) that it really clicked. By segmenting Middle Cyclone into bite-sized chunks songs I’d totally ignored really popped. “This Tornado Loves You” and “People Got A Lotta Nerve” were my early favorites because they are the most straightforward, catchy numbers, but the middle part of the album kind of blended into a haze until “I’m an Animal” blew me away. But “Fever,” “Polar Nettles,” and “Magpie in the Morning” are these gorgeous little tunes. It’s not like you even have to be patient to enjoy them; you just need to be able to shut down and enjoy. Jenny’s favorite song on the album is “The Pharaohs,” which is another track I had ignored until she played it a thousand times. It’s outstanding and has a similar tone to Fox Confessor standout (and my favorite song of 2006) “Star Witness.” It’s got a mythic feeling, with knock-out lines like “You kept me wanting, wanting, wanting like the wanting in the movies and the hymns/ I want the Pharaohs but there’s only men.” Speaking of the writing, it’s great. But what else did you expect? Neko Case has a gift for weaving her songs together with wit and a deep emotional understanding that I feel is somehow underrated given how goddamn cool she seems. The more I think about that blend of humor and sadness makes her cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me” make a whole lotta sense (“I miss you when I’m lonely/ I miss the alimony too”). Anyone else writing a song about a tornado in love with a girl, chasing her from county to county leaving a wake of destruction in its path might write something gimmicky but Case just leaves you with that heavy feeling in your chest. Sure it’s a metaphor, but it’s told so literally and the images are so vivid and violent that the whole thing is just devastatingly electric. The album is laced with a theme of Mother Nature’s Fury/purity (most notably on the Sparks cover “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth,” the aforementioned “This Tornado Loves You,” “People Got a Lot of Nerve” right down to the goddamn crickets at the very end). And tornados. So many tornados. It’s an outstanding piece of work.