Neko Case – “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You”

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Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “Night Still Comes,” “Man”

The full title of singer-songwriter Neko Case’s sixth solo album is “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You” and it fits the album perfectly. The album sends across mixed emotions, signs of inner conflicting demons. “The Worse Things Get” is displayed by poetic questionings of everything, even her own identity. “The Harder I Fight” comes through in blue collar folk songs with strong, subtle grit. “The More I Love You” is declared through hauntingly beautiful odes to lovers. The mixing of emotions does not signify a lack of a theme; in fact, it is the theme. The album’s three interchanging segments all feel temporary and imperfect, as if she’s holding herself together as long as she can, until some emotion takes her over. The lyrical result isn’t a mixed album, but full parts of a human. And Case dominates the album as the sole voice, only occasionally calling on help from other musicians.

The music is reflective of the lyrical conundrums. The album’s second track “Night Still Comes” is a beautiful and building indie-folk song, one that gets followed by the speedy and electric-driven “Man.” “Man” also serves as the album’s most poetic and frightfully questioning song. Indie-folk bands usually have albums that stretch out into varying tempos and accompanying instruments, but Case goes further than most. “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” is an a capella, profanity-laden song. “Where Did I Leave That Fire” has an almost industrial and metrical feel to it, and the final three tracks are surprisingly upbeat, fun songs. The album is truly diverse musically. It’s only two faults are just a few too many saggy, subdued moments around the album’s middle, and the less-than-rewarding short lengths of most of the songs. But those are not nearly enough to tarnish the album.

The beauty of this album is the faintest subtext of grit and anger that plays under some beautiful music. There are a lot of conflicting pieces to this album, all of which come together and form an indecisive existence; a look inside a troubled person. At times fun, at times engaging, at times frustrating, it is what most singer-songwriters set out to do. It may have a few too many ideas, it isn’t completely memorable, and it may end a little too soon, but it is a beautifully wrapped folk album.

If you like this, try: Laura Marling’s “Once I Was An Eagle.” Entirely acoustic-based, but another varied album from a great singer-songwriter.

-By Andrew McNally

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