You’d think being a music blog, I’d make this post about the Grammys, but I didn’t watch the Grammys and I don’t listen to a lot of music that gets nominated for Grammys, so here we are! (Just in case anyone thought I was trying to be professional or that I knew what I was talking about.)
Instead, I’d like to revisit an album I reviewed way back when I started this blog (I’ll probably make “Revisited” a recurring feature, like Music Tidbits or Music That Made Me). Actually, this goes back to my very second post on this blog! This week, I’d like to revisit Neko Case’s “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You”!
I feel like when I wrote that post, I wasn’t yet fully invested in the album. I read it again and I realize I really breezed over it. I’m terrible when it comes to giving my opinion about a thing immediately after watching/listening to/consuming it. I’m the worst person you could invite to a focus group. I need time to digest things, to really mull them over and think about what I did or didn’t like, and why. This is especially the case with music. I really, REALLY need the time to listen to the album as a whole – repeatedly – and then dissect it track by track. I need to get tired of it, put it away, then come back to it.
So now that it’s been well over a year since this album was released and I got my grubby little paws on it, I’ve DEFINITELY formed a better opinion about it! Well, it’s still not my favorite Neko Case album, BUT I do enjoy it a lot more than I initially did.
So let’s start at the beginning. (Where else?) “Wild Creatures” is a little underwhelming as an intro track. It didn’t have the same oomph for me that the opening tracks from her previous three studio albums did. I DO like these lyrics though:
“Hey, little girl, would you like to be
The king’s pet or the king?”
“I’d choose odorless and invisible,
But otherwise I would choose the king.”
There’s something about choosing to be “odorless and invisible” that I can relate to in my worst moments.
“Night Still Comes” is one of my favorites from this album. No clue what it’s about, but it kind of speaks to me as being about being fiercely independent and misunderstood for it, but then deciding you know what? I don’t need anyone to understand me. Umm, but really I have no idea. I still really like the line “But I’ve revenged myself all over myself/There’s nothing you can do to me.”
“Man” is still also my favorite! Oh my gosh, I LOVE this song. Neko is obviously playing around with gender roles and expectations here. It took me awhile to understand that. Like, it seems there’s this common theme that girls are either taught to be proper and ladylike (read: submissive, passive, seen but not heard, etc) OR they’re taught that to be feminine is to be weak, pathetic, and stupid. Neko (in this song) is playing with that latter theme here. She’s been raised to be a “man” – tough, bold, brave, strong – BUT she refuses to see women as the opposite. I mean, just take the line “A woman’s heart is the watermark/By which I measure everything” – and she really draws out that “everything” when she sings it. And then, of course, she sings at the end “‘Cause you didn’t know what a man was/Until I showed you.” It’s just fantastic.
I barely mentioned “I’m From Nowhere” last time, except for a few lyrics. I mean, what? This song is GREAT. It’s quiet – Just Neko and a guitar. It’s all about identity being tied to where you’re from. Neko’s father was a Vietnam War vet, and her parents divorced when she was young, so she moved around a lot growing up. I did too (but not NEARLY across as many states) so I can relate a little bit. So, she’s from “Nowhere” and that suits her just fine.
And how in the world could I skip “Bracing For Sunday”?? “I’m a Friday night girl/Bracing for Sunday to come.” These are just…FANTASTIC lyrics. Friday, the day everyone goes out and gets wild, and Sunday, the day everyone atones for it. I just really like the way she sings it, like she’s not afraid of it. She’s ready for it. This song is so charged and restless.
“Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” is still a wonderful, beautifully sad track. And I still really want to know where this one came from – but I also feel like it’s none of my business because it might be personal. Which makes it all the more fascinating and touching.
“Calling Cards” might be the only straightforward love song on here. Which makes it kind of an interesting track considering the rest of the album is so introspective, even when it seems to involve other people. I mean, this is pretty much the theme song to a long distance relationship. It’s sweet.
“City Swan” – another one that hardly got a mention! But it’s so good! It goes back to the theme of wanderlust that “I’m From Nowhere” flirts with. Sure, there are places that could be called hometowns. But when you’ve spent so much time away from them, going back to them makes you feel like an alien – completely out of your element. To be a city swan is to be someone who was transformed from a small town duckling. You’re unable to reconnect. And this part in particular just really hits me: “And it breaks my heart just like the day/That I looked down and I realized/I’d been sailing so long I’d become the shore.” Wow.
“Afraid” … Um. I don’t care for this one too much? Neko didn’t write it (but Nico did!), so I dunno. I do like the line “You are beautiful and you are alone” though.
“Local Girl” – This one is pretty nice, but for the longest time I thought she was singing “All of you lie about Sunday/You’re on a first name basis” – which made sense to me – but it’s actually “All of you lie about someday.” Which doesn’t make as much sense to me? I was listening to some old episodes of some podcasts I don’t normally listen to because they had interviews with Neko Case back from September 2013, when she released this album. Anyway, she was saying that this song is about how people talk about love all the time when they don’t know anything about it. It still doesn’t make much sense to me. But I still like it!
“Where Did I Leave That Fire?” is a really eerie one. Not just because of the dark, haunting, submarine sounds, but because it’s kind of got a little bit existential horror going on, at least for an artist. If you listen to it from the perspective of an artist, you’ll get what the “fire” is. And something about the way she sings “I wanted so badly not to be me” hits heavy.
“Ragtime” is another favorite of mine! This one really, really gets to me too. I talked about this one before (#5 on my list!). It’s very much like a phoenix rising from the flames. Just listen to the lyrics: “I’ll reveal myself when I’m ready,/I’ll reveal myself invincible soon.” I also just really like the lines “I am one and the same/I am useful and strange.” It’s so soothing, for how cacophonous it is at the end. It’s just feels like letting go.
“Madonna of the Wasps” – Another song not written by Neko! (It was written by Robyn Hitchcock. Just because I wrote that sentence, doesn’t mean I know who that is.) It’s so hippie-dippie. I kind of like it, but I also have to be in the mood for it, because it’s kind of uncharacteristic for Neko. It’s not really her style!
And OH MY GOSH, how did I NOT mention the version of “Magpie to the Morning” on this album, because it is one of my FAVORITE songs and I LOVE this version of it. See how disappointed I am in you, me from over a year ago? Well, I guess there were some things in my life that happened that changed that since then. This song just means to much to me, and I am so in love with the way it’s performed here. I could go on forever about it.
“Yon Ferrets Return” – Haha, I still like this one a lot! It’s just so much fun! There’s that wanderlust theme again. It just sweeps you right up! I want to jump on that covered wagon it makes me picture and ride off into the sunset. I know, I’m weird.
So that’s about it! What a much better review for an album that’s much better than I treated it over a year ago. Forgive me, Neko! And forgive me, readers. You both deserved better, so I hope I gave it this time!