Neko Case Returns With The Rollicking ‘Man’

 Every few years, we all get that feeling: “Man, it’s been a while since I’ve heard anything from Neko Case. I hope that means she’ll be putting something good out soon.” Or maybe, that’s just me, but anyway, Neko Case is back with the first single off her upcoming album, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, which is a very silly country love song kind of title, and it works here, maybe.

The album doesn’t drop until September 3rd, but now you can hear the first single, “Man,” a rocking and rolling number that rides on a Bonanza-charge of drums and smoothly delivered braggadocio. Case’s narrator is a Marlboro Man, one who can stand up to bullies and rope horses (Case appears to be on the album cover as well, dressed as said Marlboro Man), but “a woman’s heart is a watermark” and he can’t quite navigate this crazy thing called love. Anyway, Case is back, and we hope there’s plenty more where “Man” came from. Listen below.

Listen to the Whole Soundtrack from ‘Ghost Brothers of Darkland County’

Depending on your taste and perhaps your generational cultural cues, Stephen King, T-Bone Burnett and John Mellencamp are either legends of their crafts or names you’ve seen on your dad’s shelves. Not too long ago, these three mighty forces came together to write a supernatural folk-rock musical, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which premiered in 2012 in Atlanta. Now, the team is releasing the whole all-star soundtrack, which will meet a wider public on June 4th.

Ghost Brothers of Darkland County is rooted in actual events, the story of a fight between two brothers in rural Indiana that ended in death and destruction and woe, as these things often do. Mellencamp brought the story to Stephen King, and the two came up with this tale of two sets of brothers, one living, one (presumably) dead, from the same family, and the younger must learn from the elder to not make the same mistakes. King wrote the book, Mellencamp wrote the songs, T-Bone Burnett produced, and now we have a soundtrack.

The musical’s songbook is full of stars in the country and folk worlds, including Sheryl Crow, Neko Case, Rosanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Elvis Costello and Taj Mahal. Crow, Phil Alvin, Taj Mahal and more reassure with the soothing, breezy “Home Again,” which sounds like it could close an act, with the words speaking of reconciliation and return. Kristofferson’s “How Many Days” is dusty and contemplative, trudging with intent across the Indiana plains and speaking with a voice that sounds quite haunted. Elvis Costello’s “That’s Me” is sinister but not malevolent, a good introduction for a ghostly character. Listen to the whole, lovely, haunted America soundtrack below.

[via the Wall Street Journal]

Stephen King and John Mellencamp Will Stage Their Musical Next Year

Broadway may not be running out of ideas quite yet. After more than a decade in the brainstormin’ and writin’ phase, John Mellencamp and Stephen King will be ready to bring their ”Southern gothic musical,” Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, to the stage. Much to our disappointment, there will not be any “Greased Lightnin’”-style numbers involving a twangy Mellencamp riff and a homicidal muscle car a la Christine from the looks of things, but there will be a soundtrack, featuring Mellencamp’s words and lyrics and production from T. Bone Burnett, our early next year.

The soundtrack, which will be released in full on March 19th, 2013, features an impressive roster, including Elvis Costello, Neko Case, Sheryl Crow (who has a solo song on the soundtrack called “Jukin’”), Rosanne Cash, Taj Mahal, Kris Kristofferson and, of course, Mellencamp himself, performing his finale. When the musical hits the stage next year for real-life performances in a real live theater, Kristofferson and Costello will be a part of it, along with Matthew McConaughey, Samantha Mathis and Meg Ryan.

The team behind the soundtrack released the opening track yesterday, which sounds a bit more like a closing number, maybe with a kick-line of ghosts or zombies and a little more brass at the actual production. Elvis Costello growls and whimpers through first track “That’s Me,” introducing a potentially malevolent character over some just-walked-into-an-Old-West-ghost-town kind of instrumentation. Have a listen below. 

Neko Case Does Not Understand Boston

On Friday, The New Pornographers played a show at Boston’s House of Blues and an incident with one troublesome audience member caused Neko Case to lose her shit. After someone threw a New Pornographers CD at front man Carl Newman, Case went ballistic, threatening to “pummel” the audience’s “fucking face” and screaming “I will go to jail. I don’t give a shit. I will fuck you up. … Seriously, don’t fucking pull that shit again.” Oh Neko Case, you do not understand Boston at all.

First of all, there is no reason to get angry when someone gives you a free CD. That is just us expressing our Puritanical generosity. Remember, we New Englanders don’t like freeloaders, you have to work for what you get: if you just want your fans to politely hand you free things, you should do a concert in some more lackadaisical city (might I suggest Portland).

Second of all, Neko Case, do you have any idea what a Boston concert audience is like?! It is not like a New York crowd of feeble hipsters. It’s mostly college students—so, people flush with the strength provided by youth and adderall—and blue collar workers. Do you really think you can fight off Thomas J. Finneran IV after his sixth bump of the night, while Sean O’Malley takes out some of that pent up workin’ man aggression on your torso? I don’t think so!

You’d best watch yourself, Case, Boston is putting you on notice.

April Music Reviews: Bat For Lashes, Metric, MSTRKRFT

Bat For Lashes, Two Suns (Astralwerks) On the heels of her engrossing 2006 debut Fur and Gold, Natasha Khan (best known by her stage pseudonym Bat For Lashes) returns with the rhythmically complex Two Suns, which signals her daring sonic transition from goth-pop indie darling to high-concept sorceress. As she tells it, the album channels two distinct personae: there’s Natasha and the less-earthy Pearl. Unfortunately, neither of these narrative voices is particularly distinct. With the exception of “Pearl’s Dream,” they’re almost indistinguishable. Still, Two Suns brims with warm, burbling electronics (“Daniel”), delicious psychedelic piano pounding (“Siren Song”) and enough indelible melodies to forgive all that torpid mysticism. —Brian Orloff

Metric, Fantasies (Metric Music) Singer-songwriter Emily Haines isn’t joking when, on “Help, I’m Alive,” she moans, oh so feather-lightly, “If I stumble, they’re gonna eat me alive.” After the release of Live it Out, the band’s 2005 foray into harder rock—which proved more critically divisive than a Björk movie—Metric needed a strong comeback. And on their fourth studio album, Fantasies, Haines and company deliver. It’s a heady mix of early ’90s petulance (“Stadium Love”) and that inimitable female voice, a fractured, soaring shard of emotion turned sonic (“Collect Call”). Appropriately, the whole thing sounds like an army of goose bumps cascading into battle. —Nick Haramis

Thunderheist, Thunderheist (Big Dada) When M.I.A. and her rapper friends boasted that no one on the corner had swagger like them, they obviously hadn’t yet heard of Toronto-based digital duo Thunderheist. On their eponymous debut album, MC Isis cuts across DJ Grahm Zilla’s slinky, synth-laced beats like a jungle cat on the prowl, ready to pounce. Her rhymes knock listeners across the cheek when Isis raps, “You float like a butterfly and smack like Ali.” The Ancient Egyptian goddess tends to repeat nonsensical lyrics—“shimmy shimmy cocoa puffs”—ad nauseam for the sake of continuity, but it’s all with the intention of making crowds bounce. Rave-rap, booty-house, neo-electro—call it what you want, but this is ISCM at its best: Intelligent Strip Club Music. —Ben Barna

The Juan MacLean, The Future Will Come (DFA) The future is here, and it sounds like yesterday—circa 1983, filtered through the prism of dance-music maverick John MacLean, otherwise known as The Juan MacLean. On his second album of skewed synth-retro-nica, MacLean brings frequent collaborator (and sometime LCD Soundsystem member) Nancy Whang to the forefront. The result suggests Sonny and Cher taken to a robotic extreme, or “Don’t You Want Me”–era Human League given a punk-funk, neo-Moroder mutation. Their computer love proves hypnotic, funny and infectious. —Matt Diehl

The Whip, X Marks Destination (Razor & Tie) The debut long player from this Manchester foursome is a solid effort, but don’t expect it to change the sound of music. Tracks veer dangerously close to commercial-music licensing territory with their repetitive, guitar-laced synths and one–two drum kicks—the stuff ad-exec dreams are made of. Lead singer Bruce Carter’s raspy, navel-gazing lyrics line blip-loaded, polished, Velcro®-catchy dance-rock. “Can you hear me underground?” Carter asks on the epic album closer “Dubsex.” Probably not, kids, but who needs the underground when you’ve got money in the bank? —Foster Kamer

MSTRKRFT, Fist of God (Dim Mak/Downtown Records) On their follow-up to 2006’s The Looks, Jesse Keeler (onetime bassist for Death From Above 1979) and AI-P (Alex Puodziukas) dust off the vocoder and synth factory for another go at electronic experimentation. This time, MSTRKRFT put their best fist forward, collaborating with hip-hop heavyweights like E40 and Ghostface Killah, in an admirable—and successful—attempt to get crowds shaking. Standout tracks from the Toronto–based duo are, surprisingly, “It Ain’t Love” featuring Lil’ Mo and “Heartbreaker” with John Legend. Ultimately, though, these songs sound more like R&B remixes than proper disco house-bangers with strong vocal backing. —Eiseley Tauginas

Neko Case, Middle Cyclone (Anti-) On her eighth solo album, Neko Case holes up in a 200-year-old farmhouse in rural Vermont, where a cast of friends—including the New Pornographers, Calexico and M. Ward—help to weave her familiar tapestry of earnest Americana. As with 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, the scarlet lady of letters proves to be a master raconteur, her narrative wavering between whimsy on “This Tornado Loves You” and austerity, as seen on the expansive track “Red Tide.” Sweeping piano orchestras only add to the melodic breeze found on “Polar Nettles” and “Don’t Forget Me,” which dissolves into an ambient, frog-chorus ending courtesy of Case’s backyard pond—proof that there really is no place like home. —Cayte Grieve