When: Fri., June 19, 8 p.m. 2015
NEKO CASE | FRIDAY, JUNE 19
NORTH CAROLINA MUSEUM OF ART, RALEIGH—Whether sassing her way through Loretta Lynn's "Rated X" or leading a power-pop gem with the super-duper-group The New Pornographers, Neko Case sports a stunning voice. Not only is her range impressive, but her ability to sustain certain notes until they transmute into bursts of feeling adds extra psychological heft to her songs.
Both of those qualities become clear on 2013's The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, Case's sixth solo album. Recorded as she sorted through depression and grief, it is, as the title implies, a reckoning. During her version of Nico's solitude hymn "Afraid," Case's voice is constrained so that lines like "You are beautiful, and you are alone" turn into matter-of-fact mantras. "Where Did I Leave That Fire?" is the sound of someone wrenching herself from the depths. With a drawl, Case details being overcome by numbness and alienation. All seems lost until the song jolts into action, its drumbeats becoming more deliberate as instruments battle for space. On the final verse, she sounds hopeful she'll recapture her spark, so long as she can recognize herself: "You can pick it up if you come down with I.D." A ghostly chorus repeats the line, turning it into an almost lighthearted look at a bleak time.
Case, however, isn't only kicking against herself. During the chugging "Man," she needles expectations of gender—a conversation she resumed at length in a recent blog post about lazy women-in-rock listmaking. And she appears as a reassuring figure on the spectral "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu," a song about reckoning with old emotional abuse. She emerges from the rubble for "Ragtime," declaring, "I am one and the same, invincible and strange" under a clamor of brass.
Case's voice has always evoked strength. Throughout Fight, her artfully blunt revelations about very hard times continue to inspire. With The Love Language. 8 p.m., $21–$35, 2110 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh, 919-715-5923, www.ncartmuseum.org. —Maura Johnston