Archive for Neko Case

The New Pornographers Play Their Best Album In Years At Their Best 9:30 Club Show Ever

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on April 30, 2017 by johnbuckley100

the-new-pornographers-live-in-chicago-at-metro-april-2017-32Purloined photo with apologies and credit to Bobby Talamine of In The Loop Magazine

We didn’t need a reminder, but boy was it comforting to hear The New Pornographers play “The Laws Have Changed” early in their Saturday night 9:30 Club show in D.C.  Yes, in the real world the laws are changing, and not for the better.  Thankfully, in that 90-minute respite from our mad president that we spent seeing a favorite band play a delightful set, we learned The New Pornographers haven’t changed a bit, and are at the same time thoroughly new.

We didn’t miss Dan Bejar, though we recognize the blasphemy of these words.  As great as his songs are, as fun as his contributions have been, both live and on albums, the streamlined New Ps with just Carl and Neko keeping the bleeding heart show rolling worked wonderfully.  The show must go on, and backing an album whose thematic heart lies in “This Is The World Of The Theater,” it surely did. Joe Seiders had already proved himself to be a worthy replacement for Kurt Dahl on drums, and even on the Brill Bruisers tour three years ago we’d learned to relax; Seiders keeps the Niagara pounding going with no letup in its galvanic force, and has a few more tricks up his sleeve.  This was the best of the six or seven shows we’ve seen The New Pornographers play at 9:30 going back to 2005.

Which makes sense, since Whiteout Conditions is the best New Pornographers’ album since the by-now classic Twin Cinema.  It’s hard to remember that when that record came out nearly 12 years ago, it was bemoaned for how the band had lost the oddness and caffeinated sheen of their first two astonishing albums.  Now, of course, we recognize Twin Cinema as a high point in Western Civ (and we’re increasingly worried that 2014’s Brill Bruisers might be seen by future historians as its peak.)  Whiteout Conditions is a mix of everything we love about the band, bright and bouncy, profound when needed.  With songs like “High Ticket Attractions,” which we can’t get out of our head, and new approaches like “Darling Shade,” which sound like Martha and the Vandellas updated for the 21st Century, this Bejar-less edition of the band  flows like a lava tube off the edge of a cliff, powerfully smoking in the creation of new earth.

That The New Pornographers are one of our very favorite bands defies certain logic.  Ordinarily, we treasure the analog sound of Fender guitars played by punk bands and The New Ps feature keyboard-driven synthetic sounds polished to a high gloss.  They’re not exactly a guilty pleasure or a secret passion, for we play their recs all the time, but the pleasure we get from listening to them is a bit like wearing only natural fibers in everyday life, while enjoying the chance to dress up in polyester.  Carl Newman clearly loved songwriters like Brian Wilson and bands like ELO, and us, not so much.  But last night at the 9:30 Club this band — capable of the most intricate studio albums — played a wonderfully organic set with four-part harmonies intact, the songs building and building so that by the time we got to “The Bleeding Heart Show” encore, we could emerge from the club’s doors with a smile on our face, ready to face anything, up to and including all the laws that have changed.

The #6 Album On The Tulip Frenzy 2013 Top Ten List ™ Is Neko Case’s “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You”

Posted in Music with tags , , , on December 8, 2013 by johnbuckley100

When asked to name our favorite American writers, we would put Neko Case up there with Thomas McGuane and Thomas Pynchon.  When asked to name our favorite singers, she’s in a category of, if not one, at least on the tippy top shelf.  We loved this album when it was released at summer’s end, and think it is her finest work, not including some of the high points of The New Pornographers sonic output.

When it came out, we said this:

“Lest you think, from the title, that Neko’s joined Fiona Apple’s ranks, The Worse Things Get… is the least baroque, most straight ahead rock’n’roll album of her distinguished solo career, even as it retains all of the complex folk song structures we’ve grown to love.  For someone who was introduced to most of  the world through the high camp pop dynamics of the New Pornographers, Neko’s solo albums have always been something way different, as different from those albums as Utah’s Dirty Devil River is from Vancouver Harbour.   We have loved Neko’s voice from the first moment we heard it, but if you had to mark the moment it truly captured our heart, it was actually when she sang backup to Sally Timms on the Mekons’ “City of London” on Journey To The End Of Night. There was just something about the emollient power of her vocals that lassoed our left ventricle and yanked.  But there was such a leap between the pop dynamics of her early role in the New Pornos, which eventually morphed into true co-equal status with A.C. Newman, and the solo albums she recorded with the likes of Calexico and Giant Sand, that while we admired the raw ambition of her songwriting, we didn’t really love the albums.  They were work, punctuated by some songs so great you immediately created a new playlist just to have them star on it.

Even on the great Blacklisted, in which Neko’s funny, marvelous lyrics seemed like a beautiful woman spouting Kant, just to show she’s not just another pretty face, we found the music slow going.  Again, the metaphor to torture is these songs were often like a creek in the beautiful high desert compared to the easy and torrential flow of the Columbia, up there in the geography of the New Pornographers.  We didn’t much enjoy Fox Confessor Brings The Flood,  though Middle Cyclone took on some of the aspect of her satisfying solo album, The Tigers Have Spoken, on which, with a great live band, she kicked ass.  We played Middle Cyclone a lot.  But since we’ve downloaded The Worse Things Get, we can’t stop listening to it — an indicator this is something different, something a little easier, poppier, and yeah, better.”

To our ears, it has only gotten better in the subsequent months.

 

 

Tulip Frenzy 2013 Top Ten List ™ Shortlist Announced

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2013 by johnbuckley100

So we promised Magic Trick that we would wait for River Of Souls, out Tuesday, before locking the ballot box on the Tulip Frenzy 2013 Top Ten List ™.  We  will save them a spot on the shortlist, okay?  Below, in NO PARTICULAR ORDER are the bands in consideration.

At Tulip Frenzy World HQ, the horse trading, lobbying, and outright bribery are in full force.  We’ve cast a sideways glance at our competitors, and let us just say that this was one of the rare years in which we did not automatically scoff at the Uncut Top 50 list, and they did settle one thing for us:  yes, the Parquet Courts album is to be considered this year, even though it actually was released last November.  But no one listened to it until January 1, when we were all suddenly forced to grapple with a) 2013, and b) the Parquet Courts’ greatness.  But mbv as the Album of The Year?  Please, nice to have Kevin Shields back but it’s not really that good.  Still, could have been worse.

We should note that we are NOT considering the Bob Dylan 1969 Isle of Wight release, even though it finally came out this year, and even though it is simply amazing.  Why is it ruled out by the judges? Because we don’t think that’s right to knock a band in their prime out of consideration just because another incredible album fought its way out of the Dylan archives.  But here’s a pretty great set of bands/artists who will be considered:

Houndstooth

David Bowie

Kurt Vile

Phosphorescent

Crocodiles

Robyn Hitchcock

Parquet Courts

Thee Oh Sees

Kelley Stoltz

Magic Trick

Neko Case

Capsula

Deathfix

Secret Colours

Kevin Morby

Wire

First Communion Afterparty

Mikal Cronin

In consideration: 18 artists.  It’s going to be a long few days of wrangling in these here parts. Stay tuned.

 

Loved By A Tornado: Neko Case At The Lincoln Theater

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on November 1, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Neko Tornado 1

 

Leica C

On a raucous Halloween in the Nation’s Capital, Neko Case dressed like Adam Ant, but sang like a tomboy angel.  On this tour, with a show built on her front catalogue — particularly her career-highlight The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You — seeing Neko perform is a combination of listening to our favorite singer backed by ace musicians and our favorite writer read from her best short stories.  For by now, this is what Neko Case has become: no longer simply the girl with the gorgeous twang, but Flannery O’Connor with a backup band.  Last night, it worked to a fare-thee-well.

When she released 2004’s The Tigers Have Spoken, Neko’s live sound was an Americana counterpart to her work with the New Pornographers — upbeat, occasionally straight-ahead rock’n’roll with gorgeous country tones.  Even given how Blacklisted showed darkly comic and American gothic literary sensibilities, the Neko of that long-ago era was less complex, her music alternating between the Arizona desert sounds of her Calexico collaborators and her natural home as an Alt.country belter.  By Middle Cyclone, though, Neko had become maybe the most fascinating lyricist since Dylan, wildly ambitious, her words as complex now as her music, her gift for writing equal to her gift for singing.  Last night brought a full measure of this later, more mature Neko Case, and it was fine.

Neko Tornado 2

Leica C

The only song we really yearned for that we didn’t hear was “Prison Girls,” but that’s a trifle.  From gorgeous versions of “The Tigers Have Spoken” and “Calling Cards,” which showed off the delicacy of a band led by Jon Rauhouse to full effect, to the flat-out thunder of “I’m A Man,” we were treated to all our favorite late-period Neko songs, sung in close harmony with Kelly Hogan.  We could have stood to hear something other than a pair of Heart songs for the encore.  But as we stumbled out onto a U Street filled with goblins and witches, Neko’s baroque landscape seemed almost normal, and a great place to spend a few hours.

Neko Case Went As Adam Ant On Halloween, And It Was Awesome

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on November 1, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Lincoln Theater, DC.  Leica C.

Adam Ant

Another Day, Another Great Interview, This One With Neko Case

Posted in Music with tags , on October 25, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Did we know that in interviews, Neko talks just like the lyrics in a Neko Case song?  Here are some random lines from the great interview in Pitchfork.

On growing up with nonfunctional parents:

“Going through that is character-building, but it also gives you a shit ton of anxiety that’s really difficult to be responsible for later in life—you fucking pay for it later. It’s not a “I blame my parents” thing—that’s a hard job and everybody has to do it. But you can’t just have all these live wires and let them spark all over the place. You have to reign that shit in.”

On being a musician in Canada:

“Musically, Vancouver was so fantastic. It’s a Canadian thing—the population is really small compared to the size of the country, so if you’re in a band long enough and you tour enough, you get to know most of the other musicians, and most of the musicians in Canada play in three bands because of the necessity. [laughs] It was a fantastic exercise in cooperation and just helping each other out, which I really appreciate. I never understood the theory of moving to New York or L.A. to make it—if you want to be noticed as a drop of water, why would you move to the ocean?”

On being “a lady pilot/who’s not afraid to die”:

“Right around that time, I started writing some songs, and there were a few lady musicians in Vancouver. I was like, “Fuck, we can do this.” That’s also when I learned not to be threatened by other women in music. I had always been a little jealous, but that’s when I realized being jealous isn’t necessarily a bad thing: It just means you want to be doing what they’re doing. It’s not their fault you’re not doing it. It’s your fault! It’s like, “Go make friends with that person and tell them they’re awesome and mean it and help each other.” Once I fully I embraced that, I felt like a complete human being. I started my own band at the same time the New Pornographers started. We all came up together and we’re still together.”

On the comfort of certain music when one is depressed:

“I didn’t like music at all around 2010. I was depressed and I couldn’t listen to it. It was an irritant. Not because it wasn’t good, but because of where my mind was. But I figured out that I could listen to ragtime music and Charles Mingus, so those were my go-tos. Ragtime was really reassuring, just like, “Keep going, everything’s gonna be OK.” Ragtime sounds like hives of bees, like, “We’re working. We gotcha.” Productivity! Happiness! The trailing off of a good time down the hall. That sounded very comforting.”

It’s all a great read.  Especially if, like us, you are looking forward to seeing her shows in D.C. this coming week.

 

 

 

Neko Case Is A Man, An Animal, A Gorgeous Singer, Ambitious Songwriter Too

Posted in Music with tags , , , on September 8, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Last time around, Neko Case declared she was a “man, man, man eater,” and the title of one of Middle Cyclone’s best songs was “I’m An Animal.”  Now, on her most accessible and strongest solo album, the glorious The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, Neko declares “I’m A Man,” and does a better job of  convincing us than Muddy Waters ever did.  More like a Superman, both the king and the queen of our species.

“Man” was the first song we heard from the new album, and the best instantaneous signal it sent to our brain was that had to be the New Pornographer’s Kurt Dahl on drums.  We love the way most of Neko’s solo albums have had Calexico’s John Covertino hitting the skins, but Covertino is a moody and mysterious artist on the traps; to have the rolling thunder of Kurt Dahl powering things along meant that this was going to be a different kind of Neko Case album.  And it is.

Lest you think, from the title, that Neko’s joined Fiona Apple’s ranks, The Worse Things Get… is the least baroque, most straight ahead rock’n’roll album of her distinguished solo career, even as it retains all of the complex folk song structures we’ve grown to love.  For someone who was introduced to most of  the world through the high camp pop dynamics of the New Pornographers, Neko’s solo albums have always been something way different, as different from those albums as Utah’s Dirty Devil River is from Vancouver Harbour.   We have loved Neko’s voice from the first moment we heard it, but if you had to mark the moment it truly captured our heart, it was actually when she sang backup to Sally Timms on the Mekons’ “City of London” on Journey To The End Of Night. There was just something about the emollient power of her vocals that lassoed our left ventricle and yanked.  But there was such a leap between the pop dynamics of her early role in the New Pornos, which eventually morphed into true co-equal status with A.C. Newman, and the solo albums she recorded with the likes of Calexico and Giant Sand, that while we admired the raw ambition of her songwriting, we didn’t really love the albums.  They were work, punctuated by some songs so great you immediately created a new playlist just to have them star on it.

Even on the great Blacklisted, in which Neko’s funny, marvelous lyrics seemed like a beautiful woman spouting Kant, just to show she’s not just another pretty face, we found the music slow going.  Again, the metaphor to torture is these songs were often like a creek in the beautiful high desert compared to the easy and torrential flow of the Columbia, up there in the geography of the New Pornographers.  We didn’t much enjoy Fox Confessor Brings The Flood,  though Middle Cyclone took on some of the aspect of her satisfying solo album, The Tigers Have Spoken, on which, with a great live band, she kicked ass.  We played Middle Cyclone a lot.  But since we’ve downloaded The Worse Things Get, we can’t stop listening to it — an indicator this is something different, something a little easier, poppier, and yeah, better.

You might think, listening to the opener here, “Wild Creatures,” that we are in for another dark, difficult ride, one where you could admire the scenery, as in a Terence Malick movie, without much loving it.  But by the time we get to “Man,” it’s clear: this is Neko’s masterpiece, at least so far; the album that combines this most ambitious songwriter’s gathering strength with a varied template that makes room for crowd-pleasing melody.  While we’ve always loved hearing Neko’s voice, on the new album, we can have it all.

The Official Tulip Frenzy 2009 Top Ten List

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2009 by johnbuckley100

Just in time for your holiday shopping… the gang at Tulip Frenzy World HQ has voted.   The best albums of 2009 were:

1.  Sonic Youth    “The Eternal”

They are not young, though they’re certainly youthful, and while some of Sonic Youth’s most devoted fans would recoil at this judgment, Tulip Frenzy thinks 2006’s Rather Ripped and this year’s The Eternal are the best records they’ve released since the mid-’80s.  Incredibly sharp, able to turn on a silver dime, Sonic Youth have still got the basic formula of punk rock punctuated by sudden aural entropy.  Beat that.  And this year, no one could.

2. Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound  “When Sweet Sleep Returned”

We have asked ourselves if this is love on the rebound, if the reason we were so drawn to the second Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound album is because the other bestest neo-psychedelic band in the land, First Communion After Party, failed to release an album this year.  But it’s not true.  When Sweet Sleep Returned is equal parts spectacular San Fran guitar attack and dreamy loveliness.  This is a band that can rock as hard as The Warlocks, and then pivot to an interlude of, well, inter-‘ludes. This one filled our head with sunburst and other sounds throughout much of the summer and fall.

3.    Robyn Hitchcock   “Goodnight Oslo”

Yes, we’d probably enjoy Robyn Hitchcock singing an entomology textbook, and sometime over the past 30 years that he’s beguiled us, we probably have.  That he’s never sounded more self-assured, that his band has Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey playing in it, that(for the most part) he actually dropped the irony and insect bit to sing incredibly punchy pop songs wound ’round the twanging Byrdsy lead guitar he’s been brandishing since the Soft Boys rendered this Frequent Spinner Miles on our office playlist.

4.  Neko Case   “Middle Cyclone”

Here’s how important Neko Case is: because she wanted to push her own album this year, two of our favorite bands — The New Pornographers and Calexico — essentially sat the year out, the former because without Neko, why play?  the latter because they were backing her up.  Forget Neko’s pipes, her incredibly loud tomboy holler, this is a songwriter in the Flannery O’Connor tradition.  Middle Cyclone is a career highlight, and what a career this is proving to be, parked in the middle of the base path between alt.country and the hippest rock around, daring someone to tag her out.

5.  Reigning Sound   “Love And Curses”

It didn’t top their imperfectly heralded masterpiece, Time Bomb High School, but the Reigning Sound’s Love and Curses had me the moment I realized Greg Cartwright’s my favorite rock singer probably since John Lennon.  Just thinking about how a garage band laboring in the grease and sawdust of Asheville, NC could put out a record that spans the whole of rock’n’roll, with a dollop of blue-eyed soul, a sprinkle of punk, and a scoche of roots rock for good measure unpacked smiles wherever they were heard.

6.  Tinariwen  “Imidiwan: Companions”

We’re still trying to fathom how the most compelling Delta blues band we’ve heard since the Jelly Roll Kings conquered Arkansas could have emerged from the Touareg lands of Mali, but by now Tinariwen has figured out how to mix the village singalong with the ululations of the women folk atop an undulating beat that feels like you’re hanging on to a fast camel.  Never expected to spend this much time listening to music from the Sahara.  We’re glad we did, even if they may be a Khaddafian plot more diabolical than his hiring Italian models just to listen to him read the Koran.

7.  The Decembrists  “The Hazards Of Love”

We got over the need for concept albums around the time the Kinks stopped touring behind Preservation, but in another cultural mashup, The Decembrists, citizens of Portland, Oregon, released the best British folk album since Fotheringay.  Awfully pretty, ambitious, and bold, the only grabbing of the stereo dial this prompted when it came on in the car was to turn the volume up.

8.  Pearl Jam   “Backslider”

What does it say about music in Anno Domini 2009 that the finest punk rock extant was from Pearl Jam?  We are as sincere as they are; we’ve never been snide about these guys, and do not put irony on a higher shelf than straightforwardness, of which they’ve also carried a copious supply.  Apparently, boys just want to have fun, and it really sounded like they did making this excellent return to form.

9.  Wilco “Wilco”

Wilco, the album, was a bit of a let down for Wilco, the band.  But even when they miss the mark, they hit the spot, with an album that sounded like master musician Nels Cline wasn’t too proud to invoke his inner Wilbury.  Look, we expect something more from a band that, since 2001’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, has been in a league of their own. As it is, Wilco, the album, kept up the streak of us playing Wilco, the band for half the year’s weeks, and when you think about it, dominating 26 weeks of any given year for this long is like Threepeating the NBA Finals or something.

10.  Cracker  “Sunrise In The Land of Milk and Honey”

It’s not the soft spot we have for David Lowery that got this one clinging to the bottom rung of Tulip Frenzy’s Top Ten list.  Sure, after listening to enough Pearl Jam, you might want some irony, and Lowery’s served it up in spades, both in this Southern combo and among their West Coast brethren, Camper Van Beethoven.  The actual irony is just how much that Pearl Jam album reminded us of the near-equal grip Cracker has on those punkrock power chords.  You can’t have too much fun, and we thank the Lord on a regular interval that this too is Cracker’s attitude.

Neko Case’s Middle Cyclone’s Great, And For The Right Reasons

Posted in Music with tags , , on March 12, 2009 by johnbuckley100

Sasha Frere-Jones is a pretty great rock critic, but he’s not infallible (cf. his championing Animal Collective.)  And while he gives Neko Case her due, and offers Middle Cyclone the right centrifugal spin in his New Yorker send off, it’s possible he loves her for all the wrong reasons.  He seems to take some pleasure in describing Middle Cyclone as Step Two in Neko’s post-Country incarnation, while also damning with faint praise such an exemplar of that supposed past period as Blacklisted. Well, now.

What was so great about Blacklisted, why it was such a revelation, was not just because it proved that Neko missed her calling as a comic novelist.  It was the way Neko and those high desert desperadoes, the fellas in Calexico and Giant Sand, were as well put together as a rattle and a snake.  Seven years later, they’re still playing music that is damn near uncategorizable, but sure sounds to me to pay equal debts to Loretta Lynn and Steven Foster, timeless Americana that pays a symmetrical homage to the drainage from the Mississippi and the Colorado.

Frere-Jones points to The Tigers Have Spoken as some break point between early and late Neko.  But that was a live album, with a combo — the Sadies — whose sound is a magpie’s jukebox, one minute channeling the house band from “Hee Haw,” the next mimicking “Foggy Notion”-era Velvet Underground.   Her foray on that tour no more or less represented a break from Blacklisted as would her next sojourn with the New Pornographers.  Fermented apples and mescaline, they both give a kick but there’s no comparison.  Besides, the marvelous Middle Cyclone, starring those same dusty hombres from Calexico and Giant Sand, is completely of a piece — if, I will grant, slightly less twangy –with Blacklisted.

Neko’s never been a strict adherent to rules of melody, which is weird given how gloriously her tomgirl pipes can levitate the church roof.  There is something dark and mysterious to her solo work — sort of like Calexico, and um, Giant Sand.  But this album soars with gothic heartache and angelic beauty, like Flannery O’Connor playing the cello on a warm spring Sunday.

Middle Cyclone’s great, deep, breathtakingly strange.  (Neko’s evocation of “Prison Girls” is as affecting, and odd, as her line on Blacklisted, “We’ve got a lady pilot who’s not afraid to die.”)  But if Sasha thinks it represents a break from the Neko of seven years ago — even though he means it as compliment — he just hasn’t been listening.

Holy Moley, Neko’s Ankle Really Was Broken

Posted in Music, Uncategorized with tags , on April 18, 2008 by johnbuckley100

See statement from band: Hello friends,
We have some very unfortunate news to report. Neko had a really bad fall in Washington DC, which resulted in a fractured ankle, and will be leaving our tour today. She was really trying to be a trooper and stayed on as long as was possible through Richmond and Athens, but it has gotten to the point where she must return home and have her ankle taken care of and to recuperate.  She’s very upset about having to leave, it’s been super fun having her on stage and around the bus. 

We hope that you understand Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago, Madison, and Cleveland. The rest of us will just have to play that much harder to put on the best show possible.

Aside from Neko’s fall, this has been a SUPER great tour for us, and thank you thank you thank you for everyone who has come out so far and bought tickets for the remaining shows.

best
TNP

TOUR DATES:

Apr 18: Nashville, TN @ The Cannery *
Apr 19: St. Louis, MO @ The Pageant SOLD OUT
Apr 20: Chicago, IL @ Riviera SOLD OUT
Apr 21: Madison, WI @ Orpheum *
Apr 22: Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom *  SOLD OUT

May 24: Gorge, WA @ Sasquatch Music Festival
May 25: Chillicothe, IL @ Summer Camp Festival

June 21: Minneapolis, MN @ Walker Arts Center  w/ Andrew Bird
June 22: Calgary, AB @ V Fest

July 18: Bennicassim Spain @ Festival Internacional de Benicàssim

Aug 07: Northampton, MA @ Calvin Theater w/Grizzly Bear
Aug 08: Jersey City, NJ @ Liberty State Park

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