Virginia-born singer-songwriter Neko Case has been making records for more than a decade. An itinerant musician who tours often, Case has developed a network of musician friends with whom she's collaborated for years — including members of the band Calexico and Case's side project, The New Pornographers. These folks return on her sixth studio album, Middle Cyclone, but while she's surrounded by familiar faces, Case seems very much alone.
The opening track, "This Tornado Loves You," sets the tone for Middle Cyclone, which is filled with references to animals, environmental events and instincts, while exploring the fierce and fleeting nature of love and desire. Case describes love as a force of nature — a tornado devastating everything in its wake.
Middle Cyclone has a rootless quality that conveys a sense of longing for some kind of stability. But rootlessness is, ironically, a constant in Case's life. Since her teenage years, she's pulled up stakes and moved all over North America, which is saying nothing of her life on the road as a professional musician. And on songs like "The Next Time You Say 'Forever,' " Case seems to struggle with the balance between the need for independence and the need to settle down.
Case has written songs about lost love before, but her new CD takes the theme to a whole new level. There's something so lonely, so transcendent and so beautifully vulnerable about this music.
As she tours the country, driving her own van, tuning her own guitars and showcasing that powerhouse voice, Case appears strong and fearless. But here, her heart is cracked open. Her songs tremble with the stunning reality that love is the one thing we need the most, and the one thing that we can never control.