On Hell-On the feminist voice of Neko Case shines through loud and clear | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Music » Concert Preview

On Hell-On the feminist voice of Neko Case shines through loud and clear

by

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

comment

Neko Case has rarely voiced her ideas directly in gorgeously, meticulously plotted music, preferring allusion, metaphor, and the pure sound of language, but there’s no missing a sense of mission and drive on her new album Hell-On (Anti). The travails Case endured during the production of the album have been widely reported; her Vermont home burned down while she was in Sweden recording with Björn Yttling of Peter Bjorn & John, and she dealt with both a fanatic stalker and a prying reporter. Much of the music was written before these trials, and as always her fighting feminist spirit bursts through most of the songs. The title track opens the album with a Zen-like expression of the ultimate helplessness of mankind, as she asserts, “God is not a contract / Or a guy / God is an unspecified tide.” From there she moves on to subjects where she’s intent on demanding agency; “My Uncle’s Navy” is a portrait and rejection of a bullying, abusive man (not an actual blood relative), and “Last Lion of Albion” takes on colonialism through a feminist lens. Case was laying down the vocals to “Bad Luck” in the immediate aftermath of the house fire; her voice registers a mixture of resignation and vulnerability as she catalogs a streak of bad luck before insisting, “My heart could break for a one-legged seagull.” “Winnie,” about a titular character who’s a badass worthy of Case’s admiration, functions as a love letter to women in general: “I wanted to be her sailor’s tattoo,” she sings. The record was made with a large cast of collaborators, and among them the vocalists make the greatest impact: Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Laura Veirs, Beth Ditto, and K.D. Lang, and others provide harmony singing, and Case duets with Mark Lanegan and Eric Bachman. The elegant melodies don’t cleave to any particular style as they float over lush, soaring pop-rock arrangements with the slightest hint of the singer’s twangy roots.   v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment