Alongside her work with the Canadian alt.pop combo The New Pornographers, Neko Case has been building a reputation in her own right as a singer-songwriter whose approach is informed, but not determined, by traditional forms. This is her best effort yet, stuffed with intriguing, engaging songs delivered with a clarity that doesn't dispel their mystery. She's chosen her collaborators well: all bar a couple of tracks - notably the traditional hymn "John Saw That Number", treated to a revivalist backing in the stairwell of a Toronto pub - were recorded in Tucson, where Case employed local talent such as the Calexico duo Joey Burns and John Convertino, experts at realising the emotional undercurrents of songs like "Star Witness" and "Dirty Knife". Also furnishing a variety of strange backdrops is Band organist/genius Garth Hudson, adding lovely rhapsodic piano runs to "Margaret vs Pauline" and quirky organ textures to "Maybe Sparrow" and "Star Witness". The jangly country-garage-rock of "Hold On, Hold On" sounds like The Byrds playing The Seeds, while Case's own hammer dulcimer brightens "The Needle Has Landed".
DOWNLOAD THIS: Hold On, Hold On, Star Witness, Dirty Knife, Margaret vs Pauline