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.

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