In 2009, Neko Case followed the leveling-up of Fox Confessor Brings The Flood with another fine album, Middle Cyclone, that among other things featured one of the best album covers of the 21st century, long after album covers were a thing.
Still, the image of Neko brandishing (because that’s literally the only verb) a sword while tiger crouching on the hood of a 1967 Mercury Cougar — which she named “Angie Dickinson” — was instantly iconic, to the point where she ended raffling off the car for charity.
And while Middle Cyclone wasn’t the whirlwind of energy that the album cover seemed to promise, it featured quite a few great songs, like “This Tornado Loves You,” “I’m An Animal,” “People Got A Lotta Nerve,” and almost hushed title track.
Oh baby, why am I worried now?
Did someone make a fool of me
Before I could show ’em how it’s done?
Nearly all of “Middle Cyclone” is a single acoustic guitar, hesitatingly playing a stop-and-start waltz-time rhythm, and of course, Neko’s voice, dialed into wistful confessional mode.
I can’t give up acting tough
It’s all that I’m made of
Can’t scrape together quite enough
To ride the bus to the outskirts
Of the fact that I need love
At this point, a music box tentatively comes up, adding color and also … sadness, as well. A musical emphasis of the vulnerability she’s displaying in the lyrics. And at the end, when the backing vocalists come in with distant, echoed “Na na na na na nas” that take the song home.
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