Fox Confessor Brings the Flood Label: Anti
In the world of indie-pop chanteuses, it’s hard to argue with the sound of Neko Case’s voice. It’s warm and inviting, sexy and sensuous, cold when it needs to be, and always just a little bit mysterious. She’s done a little bit of everything from singing songs by Bob Dylan and Tom Waits to rocking out with the New Pornographers, and of course writing and recording her own tunes. She likes keeping things down to earth and simple when it comes to her own image, having stated that she doesn’t ever care to make a music video or play large arenas.
That said, Case is well known both in and out of the indie label circuitry and has always had the talent and means to do her music the way she wants to without worry of greedy hands getting into the mixture and taking over. On her new album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Case has created a low-key and moody album that is dark and mysterious but never lonely or depressing. It’s the kind of thing that would play perfectly as the soundtrack to some film noir. Filled with characters and ripe imagery, Case continues to mine her own magic on this new collection of 12 songs.
Opening with “Margaret vs. Pauline,” Neko lyrically revisits and updates a theme that was examined by the great Ray Davies on “Two Sisters” from the terrific Kinks album Something Else. In this song, Pauline is the well-looked upon while Margaret works her ass off and loses three of her fingers in a work accident. It’s a bit more morbid than Davies’ version, but no less moving, with the music making a stately and quiet sweep amongst the background, lush and solemn.
On “Hold On, Hold On” Case conjures up a Nancy Sinatra-Lee Hazlewood sort of groove that at once sounds both western and menacing. Of Course, Sinatra was never patently “edgy” herself, whereas Neko naturally is and conveys a sense of dangerous longing with honest panache. After all, Jessica Simpson has crapped all over “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” and has tarnished that bit of fluff for good. Let’s be happy that Case’s songs will undoubtedly remain her own.
Then there’s the title track, which is all heavy on reverb, nature in the lyrics, and a strange sense of creepiness that seems just this side of “Twin Peaks.” There even seems to be a taste of – dare it be said – prog-rock sensibility in these words. Something that Peter Gabriel could have been proud of back in his Genesis days. But herein lies Case’s talents for mixing the familiar with the abstract and creating her own hybrid of mystical landscapes and foggy atmospheres that one can get lost in eternally.
If there’s any one problem with Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, it’s that perhaps it’s a bit too moody and heavy at times. It makes for a great listen, but sometimes the songs blend together a bit. Granted, the “sounds” are separated nicely, as “Lion’s Jaws” doesn’t have the same groove as “The Needle Has Landed,” but if you’re paying attention while listening and don’t have the album on as mere background entertainment, you soon realize that stylistically Case is basically shifting between two moods, namely reverbed and smoky, and delicate and smoky.
But it’s a minor quibble. Any fan of Neko’s should find this album as enjoyable as anything else she’s created. If anything, it does prove she’s one of a kind, capable of taking various bits of other sources and making her own brand new thing with them. However, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is certainly one of those albums for certain times. It’s not going to be something you put on and tap your toes to. This is one for moody contemplation and hazy atmospherics. It’s meaty and goes down well with a stiff drink. Enjoy.