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About Neko Case
Since 2009’s Middle Cyclone catapulted Case to the mainstream debuting at #3 in the Billboard Top 200, Case has earned her two Grammy nominations, a blazing furnace of critical warmth and commercial kudos with appearances on blockbuster events including The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond soundtrack with her song ‘Nothing to Remember’, and a memorable duet on The Zombies’ ‘She’s Not There’ with Nick Cave for the True Blood television series soundtrack.
Neko Case has always been brave, but with her latest album she proves herself fearless. With her latest ANTI release, The Worse Things Get… the singer known as much for her restless musical curiosity as her clarion voice charts a powerfully personal course across the rocky landscape of childhood, love, and loss.
If Middle Cyclone – laced with frogs, tornados, and killer whales – was Case’s exploration of the potency of the natural world, the new album sees Case turning inward. The Worse Things Get… plunges into the wilderness of human experience, revealing Case at her most emotionally raw and yet, paradoxically, in steely control. Executive produced by Case, The Worse Things Get… was recorded by Tucker Martine in Portland, Oregon, as well as with Chris Schultz and Craig Schumacher in Tucson and with Phil Palazzolo in Brooklyn.
Martine, Case, and Darryl Neudorf mixed the album, on which Case is supported by a battalion of musicians including guitarist Paul Rigby, bassist Tom V. Ray, longtime backing vocalist Kelly Hogan, multi-instrumentalist Jon Rauhouse, Kurt Dahle, and John Convertino. Other guests include M. Ward, Carl Newman, Steve Turner, Howe Gelb, and members of My Morning Jacket, Los Lobos, and Visqueen. This far-flung set of collaborators mirrors Case’s own peripatetic path to creative maturity. Born in Virginia in 1970 and raised, for the most part, in working-class Tacoma, Washington, she’s lived and worked in Seattle, Vancouver B.C., Chicago, and Tucson, before moving five years ago to a 100-acre farm in rural Vermont.
The Worse Things Get… traces an emotional arc that reveals Case in all her thorny contradictions, each track in the 40-minute song cycle its own short story. “I like to have a linear flow,” she says of the album’s structure. “I wanted to have faith in the songs as a group rather than stacking the deck with all the upbeat songs at the top.”
From the prickly power-pop aggression of ‘Man’ to the dreamlike ‘Where Did I Leave That Fire?’ and the hopeful uplift of the album’s closing track ‘Ragtime’, she displays uncommon dynamic range and lyrical clarity, taking a leap of faith that listeners will hold on for the full journey. “I just want people to feel like I was straight with them, and messy, because I just let go and trusted them completely.”
Early songs on the album show Case at her most lyrically playful, slip-sliding along the edges of gender, family, and identity. The first track ‘Wild Creatures’ throws her themes into bold relief: “When you catch light, you look like your mother,” her voice soars, before asking, “Would you rather be the king’s pet? Or the king?”
But for all the pain and confusion that winds through the album The Worse Things Get… ends on an unequivocal note of hope and power. At her darkest moments over the last few years, Case says, she couldn’t listen to music except ragtime; “It was so hopeful and busy, like something working like a little factory to fix me.” And so, ‘Ragtime’ closes the album. “I am one and the same, I am useful and strange,” she soars, before closing with a line cribbed from Moby Dick, which she read for the first time while working on the album, and which proved a valuable yard stick “There’s a wisdom that’s woe, and a woe that is madness.”
It’s Neko Case in a nut shell.