Listen Up: Wednesday, September 05, 2002
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Neko Case

Blacklisted (Bloodshot Records)

By Matthew Smith

She’s cute. And there’s the voice, a honey-sweet instrument that soars, dips, moans, and caresses the air with a slight twang. Big deal, though, right? There’re plenty of hottie crooners out there.

Case, however, not only sings beautifully, she sings songs worth hearing. She also writes her own material and plays several instruments.

Next comes the question of how to categorize her music. Let’s start with her résumé: Early in her career, she played drums for several punk bands; now, she’s fronting a couple of non-punk outfits: The New Pornographers, made up of Case and musicians from various other bands, and the Corn Sisters, built around Case and Carolyn Mark. The New Pornographers make catchy pop rock while the Sisters recreate old-timey music. As for Case’s solo projects, each of her three albums both are and aren’t country. Think country, yes, but also think Springsteen. After that, think pop, bluesy melancholy, balladry, even touches of experimental. It’s all there.

Although scattered references invoke 9/11, most of Blacklisted was actually recorded before those events. Case seems more interested in individual stories than grand statements on the American psyche, anyway, even though she does sing of being haunted by the American dream and of not being able to find any sure footing in this country.

Through the rich imagery of “Deep Red Bells,” she sings of a handprint on a car door that “looks a lot like engine oil and tastes of being poor.” In “Pretty Girls,” she espouses riot grrl empowerment dressed in shit-kicker duds, while in the torch ballad, “Runnin’ Out Of Fools,” she kisses-off an ex lover. As a whole, the album yearns for freedom and escape, and feels both spiritually haunted and celebratory, often all at once. Blacklisted succeeds on so many levels: Country fans should flip like they’ve just discovered the Sgt. Pepper of cowboy music; pop lovers will toast the country affectations. Everyone get happy.


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