Neko Case is a prolific collaborator. Her seventh album Hell-On is peppered with friends like A.C. Newman, Beth Ditto, Laura Veirs, and Mark Lanegan. And while the other people’s voices take up a significant amount of space on her new album, Case still owns the room. Her voice, as brilliant as ever, is piercing and warm, calling you to the table. After 25 years of recording and countless projects, she still crafts a meaningful album.
Case spent her time recording Hell-On in Sweden working with producer Björn Yttling (Peter Bjorn And John). During the creative undertaking, Case’s home in the United States caught fire, destroying most of her worldly possessions. It’s the kind of event that shakes you, its aftershocks unearthing emotions that have laid dormant for years. Case walked away with a sense of deep perspective and respect for the fury of nature, themes echoed throughout Hell-On.
Case’s songwriting has always walked the line between intimate and obtuse. There’s a layer of mysterious storytelling to all of her confessions. “Curse of the I-5 Corridor” captures her incredible spirit through sprawling folk. Her sharp lyrics like, “I fucked every man I wanted to be,” only add to her mythos. Duets like “Curse of the I-5 Corridor” with Mark Lanegan and “Sleep All Summer” with Eric Bachmann are full of emotion, showing off Case’s strength in collaboration.
Case expresses her resilient sense of humor in “Bad Luck.” It’s an anecdotal examination of the thought “if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry” and the inevitability of tragedy. It’s the purest pop on Hell-On, with girl group swing and catchy lyrics. “Gumball Blues” has muscular guitar and hints of Case’s work with The New Pornographers. “Winnie” is another standout, with Western inflection and additional vocals from Beth Ditto.
A reluctant songbird, Case is clearly in touch with her feminine rage on Hell-On. Coming off her album and tour with k.d. lang and Laura Veirs, she sounds emboldened, too pissed off to stay quiet. She doles out her anger in spoonfuls, washed down with humor and hooks. Like a modern siren, Case lures you in with her hypnotic voice until you become lost in the wreckage of her stories.
Notable Tracks: “Bad Luck” | “Curse of the I-5 Corridor” | “Pitch or Honey”