Neko Case: Hell-On (ANTI-) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, May 26th, 2024  

Neko Case



Jun 01, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Following on from 2016’s largely glorious three-way collaboration with Laura Veirs and k.d. lang, the sometimes voice of Canadian indie supergroup The New Pornographers has returned with an album that steers her ever further away from pure country and ever closer to the kind of perfect chamber pop currently harvested by the likes of Eleanor Friedberger or Andrew Bird.

Neko Case’s bell-clear voice has rarely sounded better, truer than on the first line of the album“God is not a contract or a guy”later noting lusciously “God is a lusty tire fire.” And her songwriting sensibilities have scarcely been so finely honed as on the soaring “Last Lion of Albion” and the creeping sophistication of “Gumball Blue.”

Guests such as the aforementioned lang and Veirs, as well as Beth Ditto and Kelly Hogan, dot the album with color and Mark Lanegan’s spot on the risqué, wistful “Curse of the I-5 Corridor” is a meaningful contribution to a song in love with a wild and worn past.

When things get more fanciful as on “Oracle of the Maritime” or the seafaring skyscraper “Winnie” one can deduce both the influence of Stevie Nicks on case and then the influence of Case on artists such as Florence Welch. It’s quite the lineage.

R.E.M. shimmer glistens on “Dirty Diamond” and closer “Pitch or Honey,” which brings us closest to The New Pornographers’ brightest times, but it’s on “Halls of Sarah,” a lament for an everywoman exploited by the entertainment industry that Case feels most relevant and intuitive. It’s somehow both rousing and lachrymose, much like the overwhelming impression left by the album as a whole.

Hell-On is an impressive adventure through the mind and talents of one our most erstwhile and beloved musical treasures. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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