July 19, 2010

Neko Case – Blacklisted
alt-country, singer/songwriter

All the gusto, confidence and vocal prowess that made 2000’s Furnace Room Lullaby such an immense delight were delivered two-fold on its followup, the exceptional Blacklisted. On her earlier works, it would’ve been a ridiculous understatement to claim that Case’s voice “showed promise”, yet Blacklisted saw her surge upward to an unexpected echelon that fewNeko Case - Blacklisted vocalists ever reach. With Case’s voice demanding such attention, however, it’s important not to overlook the instrumentation and song structures upon which it’s anchored, with lonely slide guitar, banjo, acoustic strums and ghostly percussion providing a lush, Southern twang that’s filled with nostalgia and warmth, yet also a hint of noir. Case’s songwriting has definitely taken a step upward as well, with songs like “Deep Red Bells”, “Lady Pilot”, “Stinging Velvet” and her lovely covers of “Look for Me (I’ll Be Around)” and “Running Out of Fools” displaying an impressive grasp on the craft, often trading in twisty melodies and multi-part complexity, while still retaining their accessibility and a full emotional charge. “Deep Red Bells” deserves special mention for being possibly a career-best performance.