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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Next, we'll continue listening to the sound of an album as it's being recorded. We're getting inside the creative process of Neko Case.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE NEXT TIME YOU SAY FOREVER")

NEKO CASE: (Singing) I hear the tiniest sparks and the tenderest sounds. Diving music, drowning the sound...

INSKEEP: That's a 2009 earlier recording by Neko Case, an acclaimed songwriter whose voice can tug at your heart. She's been letting us listen as her latest album slowly comes together in the studio.

(SOUNDBITE OF A SONG)

CASE: (Singing) Will a stranger find it on a curb idly...

INSKEEP: Now, when we last talked with Neko Case, she'd just finished 18 days of recording in Tucson, Arizona. At that time, she was struggling to get a feel for the songs she'd written.

CASE: There's a lot of inner conflict going on.

INSKEEP: Is that always the case when you're writing?

CASE: No. No, I've never worked on a record where I couldn't recognize the songs when I went to rehearse them. It's been interesting, for sure - terrifying, sometimes.

INSKEEP: That's how she felt last year. Let's find out how she has changed the partly finished recordings we heard back then.

(SOUNDBITE OF A SONG)

CASE: (Singing) A chill ran through me and I grabbed on tight. That was when I left my body for good...

INSKEEP: So that's how the song sounded in the spring of 2012, Neko Case. And you knew you didn't have it, but you believed you were going to have it.

CASE: Yeah, I knew at this point, with the basics I knew it would be OK.

INSKEEP: What did you do then?

CASE: I sat with it for a while and thought, well, what could we do. And then I went into the studio and Chris Shultz, who is one of the engineers at Wavelab, I said, you know, it would be really great. Can you find a really good track of submarine noises?

(LAUGHTER)

CASE: 'Cause I just feel like I'm in a submarine. And he was like, Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

CASE: (Singing) A chill ran through me and I grabbed on tight. That was when I left my body for good...

INSKEEP: The sounds that you add in create that otherworldly sense; that sensation that we're floating in space, or maybe - since it's submarine sounds - we're floating in the ocean.

CASE: Yeah, I think to me it felt - this is going to sound very flaky - but it didn't feel of this world. So...

(LAUGHTER)

CASE: ...I thought submarines would be, kind of, the appropriate way to do it. And I had really gotten into the book "Shadow Divers"...

(LAUGHTER)

CASE: ...right before we had recorded all of this.

INSKEEP: What's that about?

CASE: It's about a U-boat found off the coast of New Jersey that had been lost. It was a German U-boat, and these American divers became obsessed with it, and it was riveting. Everybody in my band read it and we were super-obsessed.

(LAUGHTER)

INSKEEP: And that led to another obsession for Neko Case. She was feeling creatively frustrated, so she put a nose in another book, Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick." Apparently that book helped, since she went on to write a song lyric that quotes a line from the novel.

CASE: It's a coda at the end, but that's one of the backing vocals I have to do that's not on there yet.

INSKEEP: What are some of the words?

CASE: There's a wisdom that is woe. There's a woe that is madness.

INSKEEP: That's how you were feeling.

CASE: Well, that's how I was maybe feeling. I wasn't sure. But he really kind of simply mapped it out. Like, well, there's wisdom that teaches you something. And then there's woe that teaches you something. And then there's woe that's like, yeah, you maybe need to go to the hospital.

(LAUGHTER)

CASE: And if you can differentiate which one of those you're feeling, then you'll be fine.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

CASE: (Singing) Last night late, I was watching it snow. It always goes sideways in the city. It comes right out from the streetlights, you know, pumped out by an engine deep inside the Earth's core. It goes sideways in the city...

INSKEEP: Have you ever had a moment where the song was almost done and then you listened back to it, in the mixing process, and decided there's nothing there - I don't like this? I want to change this.

CASE: There's actually a song on this record that has been scrapped from two previous records. And it's finally getting used because it's finally what it was supposed to be.

INSKEEP: What changed about it?

CASE: It got simplified. It was just too many ideas in one song. And so, I ended up making it about one idea.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

CASE: (Singing) There you are at the edge of the world. Hmm-mm, dangling with my heart a'pounding, above a gulf of hamstrung promises you sang like Auld Lang Syne. You wanted it so badly that believed them at the time...

INSKEEP: What is the name of the album, by the way?

CASE: Well, it's really, really long. It's called "The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight. The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You."

INSKEEP: I like that.

CASE: Thank you. I'm sure it'll get shortened to something.

INSKEEP: Wasn't there a Joe Walsh album called "The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get?"

CASE: Oh, thank you for making it a Joe Walsh reference.

(LAUGHTER)

CASE: I'm serious. I'm like oh, man. People are just going to compare me to other stuff, now that I've a long title. But if it's Joe Walsh, I'm so down with that.

INSKEEP: That's Neko Case, who's been talking with us while recording her latest album, whatever it ends up being called. Later this year, as that album comes out, we'll talk again.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

CASE: (Singing) You made me think there was something coming someday...

INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

And I'm David Greene.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

CASE: (Singing) Blah blah blah...

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