Friday, September 26, 2008

Live Video: Neko Case - Songs From The Upcoming Middle Cyclone (Plus: "John Saw That Number" - Live at First Ave.)

(Neko Case - "John Saw That Number" - Live at First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN - 9/19/08)

If you've happened to see Neko Case live (you may have caught her First Ave. show last Friday, video of which is at the top of the post) on her current jaunt--which I did when she stopped by the Hideout Block Party--you'll know that she's been playing songs from her upcoming release, titled Middle Cyclone, which is set for release in March 2009. After being totally entranced by her set at the Block Party, where she, along with Monotonix, gave what I thought was the best performance of the festival. There she played four new songs which may appear on the aforementioned Cyclone. I went on a little YouTube mission to see what I could find and--lo and behold!--there's some great stuff out there.

(Neko Case - "Blue Blue Baby" -Live at the Slowdown, Omaha, Neb.)

I don't think she announced the title of this midtempo song, but the ballad is kind of a musical sibling to Star Witness, one of the many standout tracks from Fox Confessor Brings The Flood. Other videos have titled this "Blue Blue Baby", but that's obvious speculation. However, I've labeled it here as such because "New Song" proves to be awfully monotonous. At first hearing this, I balked a little bit, because it seemed like Case was trying to have songwriting strike twice. That said, it's grown on me after repeated listens. The track may not have the emotional wallop as "Star Witness", but the track easily is a strong showcase for the Case's considerable talents.

(Neko Case - New Song from Middle Cyclone - Live @ The Orpheum Theatre, Madison, Wi.)

(Neko Case - New Song from Middle Cyclone - Live @ The Orpheum Theatre, Madison, Wi.)

Both of these videos were taped at Case's recent show at The Orpheum Theatre. They're both shot at peculiar angles, but the audio quality is still quite good. The first song is a stripped-down ballad, with guitar arpeggios that will melt your heart the instant you hear them, and the second is a short, blast of country-flavored jangle-pop. Of all the new songs floating around, the second one is my favorite, because I like the idea of Case creating a record that's more of an upbeat contrast to Confessor stark lyricism. Also, because it's amazing.

(Neko Case - New Song from Middle Cyclone - Live @ Bumbershoot 2008)

(Neko Case - "Don't Forget Me" - Live @ Bumbershoot 2008)

Another pair of videos, this time taken from the Bumbershoot festival in Seattle. The audio for the first one is a little bit rough, due to the increased presence of the drums in the arrangement. It's also the least interesting song in this batch, as the track shows Case staying in her mid-tempo comfort zone. An anti-climatic ending doesn't help either, but at least there's a jangly guitar line and nice texture from a pedal-steel guitar. The second song is a cover of Harry Nilsson's wry, heartbreaking divorce ballad "Don't Forget Me", which originally appeared on his "lost weekend" album with John Lennon, Pussy Cats (You may know The Walkmen's cover version of the entire album from 2006). These have already been on Stereogum, but they're here because I'm a completist. Check those out above.

Based on these videos, I'd say March can't come soon enough.

(Jonathan Graef)

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