Middle Cyclone

Neko Case

Case’s last album exemplified a singer/songwriter pushing her band forward in multiple directions. Now come 14 songs that often feel closer in, but with brave experiments. She still makes good on signature moves: frequent short songs, intimations of violence and that most powerful of smoky voices. Her latest nuances frequently score big. Rough-hewn albums aren’t the typical place to be playful with keyboards, but a cover of Nilsson’s “Don’t Forget Me” stands out with call-and-response from differently-tuned pianos, and toy pianos fray at the pacing and atmosphere. Case has come clean about playing coy with the strong emotions that line her songwriting. The best here (“People Got a Lotta Nerve”) are revelatory and leave some good songs fading into the background (but not the concluding track: a field recording of mating frogs).