Top 10 2006; 7

Neko Case
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
John Saw That Number (removed. contact me for a copy.)

Putting a finger down on “Fox Confessor” is difficult. Case has crafted an album out of vagueness and specificity; myth and religion; murder and love; saints and serial killers. Finding the points where they intersect requires all the listener’s attention. In an April interview with Pitchfork, Case noted that her songwriting was “kind of a collage style. I realized that it had more emotional weight that way.” That affects the larger aspects of the songs — even the P’fork reporter admitted that he couldn’t follow what she was saying half the time. Perhaps that’s part of the collagey oeuvre, though — you’re supposed to look at the collection of words, but not try to separate them from one another.

When she wants to be, however, Case is a mistress of the concrete image. Everyone who’s heard “Star Witness” can recite that creepy first line: My true love drowned in a dirty old pan of oil that did run from the block / of a Falcon sedan, nineteen sixty-nine, / the papers said ‘seventy-five. I love the little detail of “did run” instead of “ran.” It’s archaic, more formal; like the murderer is writing it down in his (or her?) journal so he can remember it later. There’s also a great line from “That Teenage Feeling”: We can only laugh at these regrets, common as a winter cold / they’re telephone poles. They follow each other / one, after another, after another. Short, sweet, to the point.

In the same P’fork interview, Case says, “I tend to work in a way where I say what I need to say and get out rather than revisit things.” This is one of her greatest strengths. Since her subject matter is esoteric, there might be a tendency to overexplain (I’m looking at you, C. Meloy). But even when employing the mysterious Fox Confessor archetype, Case gets in and gets out; the song is short, cryptic, and saturated with myth, leaving the viewer with the same doubts as the narrator: Will i ever see you again? / will there be no one above me to put my faith in?

The best track to my mind is “Hold On, Hold On,” which harks back to the alt-country (or country noir, if you ask Case) genre that most people peg her as. It hits my weak spot, with its sarcastic, lucid lyrics: I leave the party at three a.m. / alone, thank G*d. With a valium from the bride / it’s the devil I love. Another standout is “John Saw That Number,” a little religious ditty that describes an angel as having the moon in his fists / and the stars round his wrists. Even just considering Case’s beautiful voice and harmonies, “Fox Confessor” has outsung most of the female output this year. So I’m toeing the party line with this album — it’s not a disc where you get it all on the first listen, but the more you hear it, the more there is to like.



  1. Icka’s avatar

    And she’s just so cute, too.

  2. zara’s avatar

    It’s that red hair. So unfair to the rest of us boring brunettes.

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