MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Thirty-eight-year-old singer-songwriter Neko Case has been making records and touring for more than a decade now. Over that time, she's developed a network of musician friends throughout the U.S. and Canada. For her new album, "Middle Cyclone," Case traveled across the country to record with her friends.

Although she's surrounded by others on the album, our reviewer Meredith Ochs says Neko Case still sounds very much alone.

(Soundbite of song "This Tornado Loves You")

Ms. NEKO CASE (Singer, Songwriter): (Singing) My love, I am the speed of sound. I left the motherless, fatherless. Their souls…

MEREDITH OCHS: Looking at the cover of this new CD by Neko Case, you'd never imagine that it's filled with heart-wrenching, extraordinary love songs. There she is, crouched on the hood of her 1967 Mercury Cougar, her sword drawn back and ready to do battle.

The opening track sets the tone of the album, which is filled with references to animals, environment and instinct 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.

(Soundbite of song "This Tornado Loves You")

Ms. CASE: (Singing) I have waited with a glacier's patience, smashed every transformer with every trailer till nothing was standing 65 miles wide. Still you are nowhere. Still you are nowhere, nowhere in sight. Come out to meet me. Run out to meet me. Come into the light.

OCHS: This album, "Middle Cyclone," has a rootless quality to it. It conveys a sense of longing for some kind of stability perhaps in part because of its cross-continental recording sessions, from Arizona to Vermont, from Brooklyn to Toronto, each city home to friends who helped Neko Case make the album.

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, not to mention her life on the road as a professional musician.

On this song, Case seems to struggle with the balance between the need for independence and the need to settle down.

(Soundbite of song "The Next Time You Say Forever")

Ms. CASE: (Singing) And you tremble, and you stumble, and you scrape up your palms. I can't stay here to hold your hand out to the waves for so long. I've lost my taste for home. And that's a dirty fellow feeling to be the dangling ceiling from when the roof came crashing down.

Neko Case has written songs about lost love before, but her new CD takes this 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 belting out that powerhouse voice, Case appears strong and fearless. But here, her heart is cracked open, and 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.

(Soundbite of song "Vengeance is Sleeping")

Ms. CASE: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

BLOCK: Neko Case's new album is called "Middle Cyclone." Our reviewer, Meredith Ochs, is a talk-show host on Sirius XM Radio. You can hear more music from "Middle Cyclone" at our Web site, nprmusic.org.

(Soundbite of song "Vengeance is Sleeping")

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