It’s taken me a very long time to get to this point. I have of course known about Neko Case for a long time, having first fallen in love with her powerful voice on “Letter from an Occupant” from Mass Romantic, the debut New Pornographers album from way back in 2000. I’d heard many of her countryfied solo songs since then, and had even been at that infamous hail-covered Sasquatch! performance in 2006, but while I enjoyed those songs, they didn’t hook me. Five New Pornographers and four solo albums later, (as well as two early albums with Her Boyfriends) here we are with her best work to date, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.
This album is unlike anything I’ve heard from Case previously. At times it feels very country and at others indie rock, sometimes full and at others, sparse, and it is gorgeous throughout. These songs are heartfelt and it shows. It feels very much like a New Pornographers record at times, with fast, soaring-chorus songs like “Man,” which revolves around a rocking guitar / piano solo in the middle of the short 3 minutes. In other ways, it reminds me of Fiona Apple’s #1 album from last year, with it’s pared down, nearly a cappella sadness.
“Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” is the quietest, but also the most powerful moment of the album. A terribly sad story about an experience Case had at the airport in Honolulu where she overheard a mother yelling at her young son. It is moving in its starkness. Case sings harmony with herself at points in the song, punctuating the darkness with a chorus of uplifting voices. The song is arresting, and will make you fall in love with Case, the boy that is the center of the song, and with the album itself. You can hear that song here, but I recommend hearing it in the context of the full album to really understand it.
Case and the band recorded a set for Austin City Limits earlier this year, and it will be airing on PBS on January 11. Here’s a preview of the show, with them performing the song “Man” mentioned above. The video above is apparently the only actual video released from this album to date, and it’s a stupid lyric video, which I don’t care for. Be that as it may, it‘s a great song from an amazing album, one that I know you, too, will love.
6. In Focus? by Shugo Tokumaru
7. Psychic by Darkside
8. AMOK by Atoms for Peace
9. White Lighter by Typhoon
10. Hummingbird by Local Natives
11. If You Leave by Daughter
12. Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit
13. The Silver Gymnasium by Okkervil River
14. The Next Day by David Bowie
15. Reflektor by Arcade Fire
16. We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic by Foxygen
17. Lanters by Son Lux
18. Howlin’ by Jagwar Ma
19. Impersonator by Majical Cloudz
20. Dream Cave by Cloud Control
21. Mole City by Quasi
22. Phantogram by Phantogram
23. Julia With Blue Jeans On by Moonface
24. Uncanney Valley by The Dismemberment Plan
25. Event II by Deltron 3030
26. Wise Up Ghost by Elvis Costello and The Roots
27. Us Alone by Hayden
28. Pure Heroine by Lorde
29. Shaking the Habitual by The Knife
30. False Idols by Tricky
31. Let’s Be Still by The Head and the Heart