Empire for Ashes

True, she did use autotune on Aqua Teen, but Neko Case still has the purest pipes in music. Stream her new album, Middle Cyclone, in its entirety, sadly sans cover art.

A thousand American Idol winners singing through a thousand autotune modulators will never make a Voice, a singer to be reckoned with, instinctually appreciated, and surrendered to. Very few of our musicians could just as easily go by the title of singer alone, which is what makes Neko Case and her dulcet serenades so transfixing.

Her new album, Middle Cyclone (which boasts some of the most kickass cover art seen in a hot minute), is due this coming Tuesday, March 3. As she bends slowly away from the roots-of-country sounds that gave her a broad appeal and audience, she finds gradual interest and gratification in gently teasing the boundaries of the low-key, wistful realms of alt-whatever-it-is, where she reigns as queen. So broad (and, some would say, bourgeois) is her appeal that NPR is currently streaming the album in its entirety from their site. But let it not be said that she's "sold out" or gone middlebrow or, worse yet, lost her edge. This is the same woman, capable of both the most affecting earnesty and the most sublime tongue-in-cheek self-deprecation, mind you, who appeared as siren Chrysanthemum, quite fittingly, on an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. If that ain't cred . . .

TMN Editor Erik Bryan is living the dream. He grew up in Florida, but he’s from all over. He likes playing chess, making cocktails, smarting off, and not freezing to death in Brooklyn, where he currently resides. More by Erik Bryan

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