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Review: Neko Case’s Fierce ‘Hell-On’ Is One of Her Best

The singer ponders the disasters of the moment and throws shade on the patriarchy, but on her eighth album, her voice remains a force all its own

Review: Neko Case's Fierce 'Hell-On' Is One of Her Best

Emily Shur

Neko Case‘s clarion pipes remain the calling card, but on her 8th studio LP, between lyrics and vocal arrangements, they’ve never channeled more imagination or sense of purpose. A set of rangy folk-rock, per usual, Hell-On is attuned to the disasters of the moment; it opens pondering the nature of God (alternately described as “an unspecified tide” and “a lusty tire fire”), and moves forward to cast shade on patriarchy (“Halls Of Sarah”). But the set hits its stride dissecting love – most dazzlingly on “Winnie,” a gender-corrected sailor’s reverie framed as ecstatic choral folk-rock with help from the Gossip’s Beth Ditto (“joy ran through us like welders flux/We just wanted to be music!”) and “Sleep All Summer,” a cover of Crooked Fingers’ shoulda-been-a-hit power ballad with songwriter (and Case’s former bandmate) Eric Bachmann, with its ghostly echoes of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind.” Mark Lanegan, k.d. lang, Laura Viers, Carl Newman and others reinforce the key point here: No instrument has more power than the unadorned human voice. 

In This Article: Neko Case

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