Neko Case The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (ANTI- Records)
Neko Case’s lyrics are ornery: primal yet polished, contrary and labyrinthine. Most of her material addresses a humanity that seeks to—but never can—divorce itself from its animalism. With The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, the beasts are loosed, and the people take center stage, resulting in Case’s most intimate, fearless album to date. “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” is an open letter sung to a young stranger, based on a heartbreaking moment of eavesdropping. Other standouts include “Wild Creatures,” “Man” (featuring M. Ward), “I’m From Nowhere” and “Where Did I Leave That Fire.” The deluxe edition features a stellar reworking of Case’s “Magpie to the Morning.” (M. Brianna Stallings)
Dear Kathleen Hanna: Ever hear “Prisoners of their Hairdos” by Christine Lavin? She cites a seemingly disparate list of people, all of whom are trapped by various aspects of their image. It’s not your trademark bangs-and-bun combo at issue here, though. It’s your delivery. You sound ageless, yet whether it’s Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, or The Julie Ruin’s Run Fast, there’s neener-neener nose-thumbing in your voice; examples include “Oh Come On” and “Ha Ha Ha.” Still, I’m tickled that you and Kathi Wilcox are working together again, Sara Landeau’s guitar licks are kickin’ and boy vocals from keyboardist Kenny Mellman (Kiki & Herb) are a delightful surprise, especially on “Lookout” and “South Coast Plaza.” (M. Brianna Stallings)
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Delphia Giovanna • singer-