Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

Because I’m still not yet awake enough to compose a whole song, I’m just going to make this short and sweet.

Today’s album is Neko Case-Middle Cyclone:

If you want more about the album:

or the artist:



RC: Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

Is this that R&B dude whose CD I won from 101.3 because I entertained one of the DJs for about a half an hour? Ugh. I think I ended up not even listening to any of that five pack. What a waste of an afternoon… driving down 15 to just pick up a rubber-banded stack of uninteresting.

After Listening:
Okay I was way off. That’s Ne-Yo. This singer sounds a bit like Shirley Manson if she were Florence from Florence and the Machine with a tint of throwing away vibrato-less tone like Missy Higgins. It has a Dogs Die in Hot Cars feel and I really enjoy the use of strings in The Next Time You Say “Forever”. She sounds a little like Natalie Merchant in I’m An Animal. The playlist progresses into various styles of “white folk singers that want to be rock stars”. It feels like a few songs might be added to my massive playlist for moving across country.

Favorite track/tracks:
Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth – Okay, I will admit that I didn’t actually pay attention when I was initially listening to it and immediately snapped my head towards the speaker when I thought I heard “Never turn your back on Middle Earth”. I was all “YEAH! HOBBITS!” Turns out I’m slightly braindead today.
Magpie To The Morning – It’s such a lazy song with interesting melody. If there was a film of me gardening, I would like this to be its underscore. But I don’t garden. I get weirded out by dirt.
Prison Girls – I didn’t think I would like this song by the title alone, but I really dig the creepy instrumental and the warbling Jefferson Airplane vocals in it. I couldn’t care less about the lyrics.

Least favorite track/tracks:
Middle Cyclone – It is VERY rare that I enjoy the sound of a Jack-In-The-Box. This was not one of the positive times. It brought me back to the time I was sleeping over a friend’s house and her music box sounded like it and she had a My Buddy doll AND a Kid Sister doll which looks very much like a Chucky doll.
Marais La Nuit – You want to know what my music doesn’t need? 30 seconds of environs chirping their hearts out. It is completely self indulgent bull where someone goes “I want to sound artsy”. While I understand that my taste in art itself contradicts this statement as I completely adore Abramovic’s work because it is so weird, it’s heaps different than having a bunch of high pitched squeaks invade my ears. With Abramovic I can look away. If this is playing in an Anthropologie when I am in it I guarantee you I will stab someone with a doorknob.

Overall (1-5 stars):  2.75
While I enjoyed most of it while listening to it, it’s not something that I think I’ll listen to again. I think I might pull some songs to my playlist.


Neko Case – Middle Cyclone: 2.5 stars

Precon: I might have heard this person before, but I can’t even remember if it’s a guy or a girl.

Favorite Track: Red Tide
Least Favorite: Nature Sounds

Schizophrenic gen-x folkiness.
The ubiquitous reverb leaves me with an empty feeling.
Her name is kind of misleading. I see her as more of a Shirley Appleton.
Happy to see a Nilsson cover. It’s pretty good.
No real pizzazz on the whole. Her voice is ok. Interesting at times but not particularly appealing. The music can be tiresome. I enjoyed it most when it was either stripped down or had a driving rhythm, but many of the songs just didn’t do anything for me.


Neko Case-Middle Cyclone

Preconceived Notions:  I think I’ve heard Neko Case, but there’s a very real possibility that I’m confusing the person I THINK of as being Neko Case with some other artist.  I guess I’ll find out once I hit “play”.  But I can confidently say this.  The reason that I’m unsure is because I’ve never consciously bought or played one of her albums before.  Another thing that might change once I hit play, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

After Listening:  I was pretty into this album.  Until the 30 minutes of chirping came on.  Maybe there’s a deeper meaning that I just didn’t get, or maybe it’s just a half an hour of crickets, literally.  Her voice, for some reason, is reminding me a lot of Shawn Colvin with a dash of Amy Mann.

The Next Time You Say Forever: I can never be mad at any song that uses the phrase “punch you in the face”.  I really can’t.
Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth: There’s something that stands out to me as being Abba-esque about this track.
Middle Cyclone-This definitely sounds like a stow-away from the Magnolia soundtrack.  I’m pretty ok with that.
Magpie to the Morning-If she wasn’t listening to Nick Drake when she wrote this, I’ll eat a paper plate
Don’t Forget Me- “I’ll miss you when I’m lonely, I’ll miss the alimony too”…I’m a big fan of the songwriting on this whole album, but I love this line in this song.  I like the blues-y, ragtime-y combination on this one.  It gives it a slight swing, but more like a saunter.

Favorites: The Next Time You Say Forever/People Got a Lotta  Nerve/Magpie To The Morning
Least Favorites:  I’ll go with the obvious.  To be honest I cut out about 17 minutes in, skipped ahead, made sure it was just chirping and much like Honey Badger, decided I didn’t give a s**t.

Overall: 3.4

Even with the 17 -30 minute trudge of indulgence, most of the rest of the record is solid.  It sounds influenced by a lot of artists that I like and I would be intrigued to listen to more.  I’m also intrigued because I was always pretty sure that The New Pornographers were a band I should stay away from until I heard this song a while ago (on Chuck), but I never followed up listening to any of their stuff.  I think I will now:


Preconceived Notions: I know enough to know this isn’t a Japanese band, despite the name.  As I find myself saying too often these days – “bummer”.  As for everything else…well let’s try it.

After Listening:  I find it funny that the most popular track on this – or at least the 1st one to get a video release (People got a lotta nerve) is basically a rehashed Gin Blossoms song, at least musically.  Thankfully most of the rest of the album is musically more interesting- albeit far from perfect. It tends to repeat a lot of imagery lyrics which left alone could be pretty poignant…but on repeat are dulled (see “gunpowder eyes” – Prison Girls).  There are also reoccurring themes – mainly of animals and nature, but these are blended and combined well enough to not wear out their welcome.  The star of the album is her voice, which is surprisingly rich – and able to hit a wide gamut of notes without flattening or shrieking.  That’s a good thing, because the voice needs to carry the pedestrian music underneath.  I give the album some credit for trying to try a few styles – the aforementioned “Gin Blossoms” rock to the rolling piano country style of “Don’t Forget”, to some of the darker and moodier folk styles of “Prison Girls” & “The Pharaohs”…I can clearly see the album is trying.  Ultimately though I’m left with a larger impression that most of these arrangements are the lacking power and depth to draw out much emotion from me.

Favorite Track:  “Magpie to the Morning” –  A track to showcase the simple fullness of her voice is very welcome. A sort of wandering, but not lazy…warm, but not flat piece.
“Fever” –  There’s a great staggered beginning with a very whiny and sick reverb guitar.  That tone and cacophony guitar lines will reappear in the background throughout the song.  It’s got a swing to it, that’s slightly off on purpose-and that keeps it interesting and out of the blandness that permeates a lot of the rest of the album’s musically accompaniment.

Least Favorite Tracks: “Pharaohs” –  A droning dirgey little track with a lot of repetition.
“Marais la Nuit” – Now I imagine this is how Zorn sounds to a lot of you, pointless empty sounds.  But I wish this was a Zorn track, b/c if there was there’d be some purpose – some change.  Something.  30 minutes of frogs in a swamp is the type of John Cage sh8t that makes people frown on all experimental music.  And the funny thing is, if this was placed as the 1st track in the album, or even somewhere in the middle before a faster paced track – then its very presence in a track lineup might have given it more meaning.  As the final track however, any intents the artist might have had in a sort of dénouement reflection- pretty much give way by about minute 10.   I don’t hate this track perse…but it’s pretty pointless in the scheme of things.

Overall 2.97 My sense is that maybe there’s a Neko Case album I can relate to, but that this one isn’t quite it.  I’m hoping her voice really is as good as it sounds overall on this record (I do have some concerns about the sheer amount of reverb on it- in places), and if it is normally as full as it sounds on this record, there’s probably some work out there that musically is more engaging.  At times this felt like a record that just kept missing, and instead of being profound wound up a lot more like a nursery rhyme structure.


Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

Preconceptions: Never heard the music, but I feel like I hear about this chick constantly. What’s her deal? Is she cool? Is she hot? Can she sing? Where’s she from? I feel like I know more about her somehow. In any case, her name makes me want to like her and rave about it, like, “hey, did you hear the new Neko Case album? It’s kicks ass, dude, seriously”. I mean, doesn’t that sound cool and hip? I also feel like she might be Canadian… either that or she’s from Georgia…. Not sure why those are the two things that pop to mind. I feel like she’s hang out with Michael Stipe, which is I guess where I get the Georgia thing. Whatever, lets listen…

After Listening: Ok, she has a wonderful voice and this is all very competently done, but I just couldn’t really connect with this music too much. I feel like there is a lack of energy. I needed a boost somewhere during this listen, and Neko never gave it to me. I also really don’t get this “alternative country” genre assignment she gets. Maybe I don’t really know what makes something alternative country, but to me this just sounds like indie folk music. As I was listening I read about her and realized she’s from The New Pornographers, which is a band I dabbled with a few years ago, and I guess is where I got the mysterious Canadian preconception from.

In all I would say that, for me, perhaps work isn’t the right setting for Neko’s music. I need to be relaxing and chillin’ out somewhere to really grasp this I think, so I’m factoring this into my overall rating. Also, If you listen to long segments of the chirping final track, it actually does begin to sound really cool and interesting. I listened for about 5 minutes and I gradually began to pick up details in the sound that made it interesting.

Favorites: Vengeance is Sleeping, Middle Cyclone, Red Tide
Least: Polar nettles

Overall: 3 Stars (perhaps a full star more in a different setting. I think I may try it out and let you guys know)


Preconceived Notions: Didn’t she sing with Velvet Underground?

After Listening: Nope, not her. This is country music for people who can read.

Favorite Tracks: Prison Girls wasn’t as interesting as the film of the same name on Cinemax last Thursday yet it still managed to be equal parts longing and creepy. This Tornado Loves You (if it’s literally a lovesick meteorological event)
Least Favorite Tracks: This Tornado Loves You (if it’s metaphorical), The Pharaohs  “I love girls in white leather jackets” has to be the weirdest wedding vow ever. I am shocking no one by putting the indulgent and annoying Marias la Nuit on my Leasties list. -0.5 pt for that 30 minute camping trip. Seriously? Do the crickets and tree frogs have credits in the liner notes?

Overall: A little sedate for a sleepy Tuesday, yet full of genuinely literate and moving songs. I wish more country sounded like this.

Rating: 4.0 (4.5 w/o Marias)
Predicted Score: 4.0
+/- YTD: +1.99

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Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.

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