On The Download: Neko Case

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Alt-country darling Neko Case is back with the follow-up to her 2006 album, "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood." Her new album, "Middle Cyclone," is innovative, creative and fun from the first song all the way down to the liner notes.

The album kicks off with the song "This Tornado Loves you"; it's a story of unrequited love in which she compares herself to a tornado, doing everything it takes and destroying everything in her path to get the object of her affection to love her back. The manic love song is followed by "The Next Time You Say Forever" – a song with a not-so-happy ending. Case sings bluntly, "The next time you say forever, I'll punch you in your face / Just because you don't believe it, doesn't mean I didn't mean it." She recalls a time when someone promised her forever, but obviously didn't make good on his word.

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The first single off the album is the buoyant "People Got A Lotta Nerve," where Case, an animal lover, takes on the hypocrisy of extreme animal rights activists and puts herself in the mindset of wild animals who are forced to be tied down, then blamed for attacking people. (On a side note, for every blog that posts the song and iLike user who adds it to his or her profile, a donation will be made benefiting Best Friends Animal Society.)

As the album continues, the gentle rhythm of the guitar plays on the title track, "Middle Cyclone," while Case pensively sings, "Did someone make a fool of me before I could show 'em how it's done?" The melody builds as she laments over yet another unreciprocated love and perhaps something more… searching for a deeper meaning for whatever it is that ails her.

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My favorite song on the album is actually not one written by Neko Case, but a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Don't Forget Me." The song is a simple and bittersweet anthem about a love gone wrong and learning to look back on the experience with a newfound wisdom.

The only downside to the album is the excitement I felt when I saw the album was 74 minutes long… and then the disappointment I had when I realized the last "song" on the album, "Marais La Luit," is a half hour of nothing but nature sounds and frogs croaking. Seeing as how she recorded the entire album on a farm in Vermont, it's likely an homage to the ambiance and sounds she experienced at night on the farm.

Several motifs can be found throughout the entire album: tornado references, nature, animal instincts and unreturned love. The songs are chock full of personification and similes, which can be heard in tracks such as "I'm An Animal" and "Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth."

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"Middle Cylone" was recorded in a barn; obviously inspired by her nature-filled surroundings, Neko Case brings her throaty, sonorous voice to life on this imaginative album.

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