Album: Neko Case, Middle Cyclone (Anti)

On her follow-up to Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Neko Case replaces the animal metaphors with a new allegorical system in which elemental ruction conveys the surging of emotions.

It's best employed in "This Tornado Loves You", where as well as promising to "carve your name across three counties" like a whirlwind, Case protests at how she's "waited with a glacier's patience" for her affection to be reciprocated. The aftermath is shown in "The Next Time You Say Forever"; she's left like "the dangling ceiling when the roof came tumbling down". Her cover of Sparks' "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth" takes on a more sinister aspect, for all its country livery of fiddle and pedal steel. The violent tone extends into songs like "Vengeance Is Sleeping" and "Prison Girls", where even physical attraction takes on a menace: "I love your long shadows and your gunpowder eyes". With M Ward, Garth Hudson and members of Calexico, Los Lobos and The New Pornographers helping out, it's exquisitely realised, the arrangements sketched in earthy roots-music tones, from the skittering banjo, brushed drums and pizzicato strings of "This Tornado Loves You" to the Byrdsy electric 12-string of "People Got a Lotta Nerve".

Pick of the album: 'This Tornado Loves You', 'Polar Nettles', 'Fever', 'People Got a Lotta Nerve'

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