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Middle Cyclone

Middle Cyclone

February 28, 2009
4.3 out of 5 stars 131 customer reviews

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lara Chetkovich on March 4, 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I'm going to start my review talking about the album art, which is spectacular. It has more of Neko's signature artwork than her other albums and expresses the concept of the album much like her drawings on "The Tigers Have Spoken" and "Fox Confessor"--if there were some kind of award for this, Neko would win it.

What is so great about Neko Case is that nobody captures the essence of nostalgia quite like her. Her nostalgia is not the sentimental kind--not a wistful longing for what once was--but a deep ache for what we have unthinkingly destroyed. Her voice itself has an organic reverb that is not created by a production mixer. For people who tuned into Neko as an indie rocker, I encourage you to download individual tracks that sound like her old work, like "This Tornado Loves You" and "The Pharoahs"--"Middle Cyclone" is kind of a departure from her previous work if you are looking for songs that use her voice as the main instrument to play darkness with sweet melodies.

"Middle Cyclone" uses experimental sounds like the "piano orchestra" made up of forsaken and abandoned pianos, music boxes, and the notorious 32 minute track of frogs being so panned by critics. I think these experimental instrumental changes make the album less "poppy" because they decenter Neko's vocals inside a wall of sound, a move that reflects her collaborations with the New Pornographers and The Sadies. I'm really curious how these arrangements will play live on tour. I think some fans are going to be disappointed with "Middle Cyclone," though there are a few catchy tunes on the album.
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Format: Audio CD
As a singer-songwriter, Neko Case is streets ahead of many of her contemporaries but, on this album, some of her vocal phrasing and song melodies are beginning to have an all too familiar ring to them. A number of the supporting musicians have also played on her earlier albums but, despite this, their hitherto 'stripped back', semi-acoustic sound has been replaced, on many songs, with a more fashionable echo-laden jangling sound, and a distinct lack of groove - but there are times when her musicians manage to conjure up some quite interesting sounds. On a more positive note, NC doesn't disappoint with the power and clarity of her vocals; and her lyrics, whilst less opaque than those on 'Fox Confessor', still place the emphasis more on imagery and less on transparency; also, several of the songs are love songs with lyrics evoking a strong nostalgic-reflective mood.

The songs I enjoyed most were : 'Polar Nettles', 'Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth' and 'Red Tide'; but there are no songs that really 'jump out and grab me'. The final track (some 30 odd minutes long) is comprised entirely of a recording of highly repetitive frog noises; whilst this must have some personal significance for NC, I can't think what possessed her to include it on the album. Having said this, some listeners may find it therapeutic (especially insomniacs).

NC has been a force to be reckoned with but, in my opinion, 'Middle Cyclone' does not represent her best work in terms of originality. It isn't a poor album by any means - NC's vocals are well up to her usual high standard (she has perfect pitch), and her lyrics are a clear cut above those to be found on many mainstream pop songs - yet, I still feel that the song writing is less inspired than on earlier albums. If you are thinking of buying 'Middle Cyclone', I'd recommend that you listen to as many tracks as possible beforehand - particularly if 'Fox Confessor' was an album that 'fired you up'.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Another good one from Neko Case and her band. This CD has all that Neko's fans have come to expect from her, chapter 5 of her studio releases, if you will. The melodies resonate strongly with those on her earlier works. Her fans will recognize the instrumental invention here as a direct descendant of the previous albums. Where she breaks new ground is the subject matter of her lyrics: more love songs - with a twist. Neko still delivers the dark stuff, too, but just in smaller doses. Oh, yeah, let's don't forget the perfect backing vocals thoughout - but especially in "Prison Girls".

The trajectory of the album, overall, is remarkable. It starts out with high energy for 3 songs. Then, the good stuff, the middle songs, and here going on for 11 tracks strong. By the time you get to the last track, you're ready to wind down.

If you like Neko, you'll probably love this CD. Not revolutionary, just a nice evolution. And you can still count the animal references! Way to go y'all!!
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Format: Audio CD
Neko Case's new album Middle Cyclone, is well titled. A force of nature, it's a commanding collection of songs not only showcasing the beauty and strength of her voice, but it's also an intelligently conceived expression of a bold though suppressed anger of the overlooked feminine psyche. More overtly, the album is a warning not to overlook the force of mother nature herself; in the closing thirty minutes Case deliberately bends our ears toward the night music of the marsh, the crying of crickets and frogs. But more than that, Case alludes to the theme of the feminine being taken for granted, and the resulting cyclone in wait.

Be forewarned, the first half of the record starts with the "tiniest sparks" and the "tenderest sound", a lovely beginning to the showcase, as it were. Once the listener reaches "I'm an Animal", however, the cyclone becomes manifest, a darkening crescendo of turbulence. While all songs are fairly short and predictably impressive, the absolute masterpiece for me is the longer "Prison Girls"; it's a funeral dirge for those women eternally unimpressed, who've "traded more for cigarettes than I've managed to express".

Middle Cyclone is an hugely solid album with incredible accompaniment. The sound is awash with the drums, upright bass, piano, and guitars from eternal alt-country ambassadors Howe Gelb, Calexico, and M. Ward. Case's own band is impeccable as well, not only highlighting her voice but surrounding it with a fullness that nearly suffocating. As usual, the lyrics are as haunting as in any prior Neko Case release, too. Standing equal with Fox Confessor, Middle Cyclone is yet another jewel in Case's crown.
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