Monday, August 07, 2006

Neko Case -- Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

This CD is my favorite (so far) this year. Every time I hear a track on the radio, I have this insatiable urge to hear the entire CD. Neko was featured on NPR's "World Cafe" tonight in which David Dye described her vocals as "rapturous." I missed most of it and had to head over to the NPR site to hear the entire interview. She intrigues me for a number of reasons.

She's done country covers and originals, punk bands, pop bands, and alternative music during and after graduating with a BFA from Vancouver, Canada's Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. She was voted "Sexiest Babe of Indie Rock" in a Playboy online poll. She left home at age 15 and remained homeless for some time before finishing high school and then obtaining her bachelor's degree. She grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and moved to Seattle after graduating and then, Chicago, because she felt Seattle wasn't doing justice to local artists. She's back in Seattle now.

She has done a few CD's with The New Pornographers that met with critical acclaim (Mass Romantic in 2000; Electric Version in 2003; and Twin Cinema in 2005). She is incredibly articulate, a gifted artist, and a haunting songwriter. She started out as a drummer/singer and now plays guitar and various percussion alongside her hauntingly edgy vocals. She still includes former bandmates from The Sadies (1997) on this CD.

Fox the Confessor came from Ukrainian Russian folklore sans flood. She feels a strong connection between animals (most passionately, birds) and humanity and heralds the dark meaning of folklore to light with her sparse, sometimes humorous in a dark comedy twist of fate, way. Her songs balance drums, reverberating guitar, rising and falling vocals reminiscent of Loretta Lynn in her early years, and acoustic strumming in dreamy ways that hang in the air like hummingbirds at the feeder - flitting anxiously this way and that with purpose although you're never quite sure which direction she'll head next.

Her most-played song from the twelve-track Fox the Confessor Brings the Flood is "Hold On, Hold On" which she describes as a soul-searching tribute to being 30-something and alone instead of married and starting families like many of her friends. The song floats like a Mama's and Papa's feel-good pop anthem of the 60's with a gray underbelly of questioning and forced hope. Her voice is truly stunning in its simplicity and starkness.

"The most tender place in my heart is for strangers," her quivering voice opens on "Hold On, Hold On," the only autobiographical song on the CD. "I know it's unkind but my own blood, it's much too dangerous, hanging 'round the ceiling half the time ... hangin' round the ceiling half the time. Compared to some I've been around. But I really tried so hard. That echo chorus lied to me with its "Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on." The song ends with her eating a Valium the bride gave to her and the soulful exclamation that "it's the devil" she loves which is "as funny as real love ... as real as true love."

She says she likes to write about other people's lives because talking about your own life too much is sinful or vain which, she says, comes from her upbringing. She's a self-described control freak that doesn't care for live performances or photographers. She's playing Brooklyn, New York, at the McCarren Pool with Martha Wainwright on August 24 (tickets still available) followed up by two California shows: Pioneertown at Pappy and Harriett's (tickets still available) on September 9th and the Hollywood Bowl with Willie Nelson and Ryan Adams (tickets still available) on September 10th.

The CD is a beautifully crafted homage to life away from home and new meanings found along the way. It's the kind of CD that you can safely put on "repeat" and find new meaning each time you listen. Whether it's the rambling piano underscoring the CD's opening track "Margaret vs. Pauline" or the banjo on "John Saw That Number," you'll flit across soaring vistas of sound and emotion and find new perches from which to view the emotional flood.

If you want to learn more about Neko, check out her awesome website featuring some interesting Neko blogs. She is not touring with The New Pornographers, in case you were hoping. There's also a fansite that you need to register for at Porchlight that offers the usual circumspect opinions mixed with some good information.


Post a Comment

<< Home