by Jim Nintzel
You'll see some familiar faces when Neko Case performs on Conan tonight: Calexico's Joey Burns will be playing cello while Jacob Valenzuela and Michael Carbajal are busting out their trumpets.
Much of Neko's latest release, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, was recorded right here in Tucson at Craig Schumacher's Wavelab studio. Pitchfork's assessment:
And that’s the most impressive thing about The Worse Things Get: though it’s a record that looks at topics like depression and parental neglect square in the teeth, its overall tone is one of resilience. The penultimate track, "Where Did I Leave That Fire" begins with a sparse, post-rock arrangement but eventually gathers into a triumphant and surprisingly comic midtempo ballad about mojo returned. But the true victory lap is "Ragtime", a rousing blast of "Crimson and Clover"-esque pop that serves up hard-won hope and plenty of mantras for carrying on. "I’ll reveal myself invincible soon," Case sings, as a parade’s worth of brass swells around her in agreement.
Somehow, The Worse Things Get is Case’s tightest record and also her strangest. With its off-kilter arrangements and eccentric turns of phrase, it’s a world unto itself. If it has any contemporaries, they’re records like Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel… or Cat Power’s Sun— the works of artists for whom “maturity” has not meant putting out that fire that Case sings so evocatively about chasing.
Neko performs at the Rialto Theatre on April 12.