If there is one modern artist that evokes a melting sound from those that speak her name, it's Neko Case. I myself do not own any of Case's records (yet), but the more I hear from her and read about her makes me want to get at least her latest, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. But how do I describe what's so great about her? As usual, let's start with some backstory:
Coming from a background of punk rock as a drummer, Case first gained some national notoriety with her country-tinged folk. Releasing her debut, The Virginian, in 1997, Case would find a new audience in 2000 with her involvement with the New Pornographers, a "super-group" of sorts.
Featuring the talents of vocalists/guitarists Carl "A.C" Newman and Dan Bejar up front, the New Pornographers released their debut, Mass Romantic, to rave reviews. I myself was a little slow in listening to the record, but when it was reissued in 2003, I downloaded it. Bouncy pop that's smart and fun, Mass Romantic is awesome. However, I wasn't completely blown away by Case's voice at first. I didn't think it was bad, but I started noticing whenever I talked with friends that they loved her voice. For myself, I've come to really like her voice, her songwriting and her attitudes on life.
First, the voice: it's distinct, high-reaching and velvety smooth. The solo stuff I've heard has no trace of the twangy dreck that you hear in most country music. Her stuff with the New Pornos is pure magic, especially songs like "Letter from an Occupant" and "Mass Romantic." As far as how I heard her solo stuff, I first heard her version of Tom Waits' "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" (thanks to Frank for posting it as his weekly cover song last Christmas). Totally chilled out compared to her New Pornos stuff, my interest grew.
Then there is the music. Listening to a track like "Star Witness" from Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, the reverb augments the ghost-like pop (its swinging chorus is especially incredible). This isn't the kind of dixie chicken cornball country you hear on mainstream country radio. I've heard four tracks off of Fox Confessor and I'd like to hear the eight other tracks at least for a start. She has four other solo albums and a live album out and I don't where to start with them.
Finally, there are the views on life. Case was recently interviewed by Kyle for the AV Club and she offers some great views. "It's not really knowing where you fit in," she said of her song, "Thrice All American." "35 years old, I'm supposed to be married with kids by now, and I'm not really feeling that. I feel about 19 pretty much all the time." "I'm probably most comfortable with this," she said with her current level of fame. "I'm not really working for Kurt Cobain-style fame, and I might be a little old for that anyway. I'm not going to the fat farm or getting lipo anytime soon. I don't know if that's possible in America, even. You could compare yourself with such a thing, but I think it's apples and oranges."
This is all just a start, but I think I'm getting closer to understanding what Case is all about. Friends of mine have described her as not just "Neko," but "Neeeeeeeko" with an implied love in their voices. I may be saying the same soon.