Neko Case's work still boasts a vast sense of possibility. Info/tix
Neko Case's fourth solo album, 2006's Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, brought a new sense of openness and ambition to the songwriter/singer/multi-instrumentalist/producer's music, and Case has continued to make good on that record's promise. Case already wrote great songs—listen to "I Wish I Was The Moon," from 2002's Blacklisted, and try not to cry, I dare you—and turned in powerful vocal performances both as a solo artist and a member of The New Pornographers, but on Fox Confessor the song structures and arrangements took on much more elaborate dimensions, all pinned together with vocal melodies that feel at once grandiose and intimate. Tracks like "Hold On, Hold On," "Margaret Vs. Pauline," and "Dirty Knife" are all about as long as your typical pop song, but feel vastly more intricate and deep.
Since then Case has released three studio albums, the latest being this year's Hell-On. Like 2009's Middle Cyclone and 2013's The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, it's a record that becomes more rewarding if you live with it for a while, put it down a while, occasionally come back for a spell, and so forth. These records have plenty of punchy melodies to draw you in in the short term—"Last Lion Of Albion" is quick to captivate, for instance—but Case's music is built to sink in over time. That's a testament to Case's sometimes-blunt, sometimes-cryptic lyrical weave, her refusal to get trapped in one template, and the balance of profundity and humor in both her music and her public persona. On Hell-On, Case brings us the cranky barbs of "Bad Luck," the roiling slow burn of "Oracle Of The Maritimes," and the uneasy electronics-tinged arrangement of "Pitch Or Honey." It's tough to categorize, but you couldn't mistake it for anyone else.
At this show, Case is for opening for singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne, who has a delicate but scratchy voice and crafts a respectable blend of country and aching soul. (Still, he's no Neko Case.) It feels a little weird for Case to not be the headliner. In all fairness, she's the opener on an entire tour with LaMontagne, behind his new album, Part Of The Light, so it's not quite the same as last year's bizarre Emmylou Harris opening for Ryan Adams one-off at Breese Stevens. —Scott Gordon