March 6th, 2009 7:46am

A Glacier’s Patience

Neko Case “This Tornado Loves You”

A lot of women have beautiful voices and many of them can sing with great authority, but still, there’s something extraordinary and distinct about Neko Case’s voice and the way it can convey even the smallest, sweet emotion with an assertiveness on par with the forces of nature. Her boldness lends itself to a variety of styles, but whether she’s the vocal equivalent of a fuzz pedal in Carl Newman’s New Pornographers tunes or singing a quiet ballad, she invests lyrics with an emphatic earthiness that makes them seem like immutable facts: This is how I feel; this is how things are. It’s hard to imagine her singing anything at all and having it come out feeling like a lie.

In other words, Neko Case sounds like a tornado that loves you.

In this song, Case’s voice is accompanied by guitar parts that seem to hover and spin like wind storms in the distance. We sense a form, but know there’s no solid thing there, only pressure and chaos that could spin out and destroy us if we’re not lucky. Maybe it’s like being in the eye of a storm, or it could be the solace of feeling a brisk wind when you could just as easily get hit with devastating gust. As much as the song can feel enormous and intimidating, there is also a sense of lucidity and grace to the sound of it all, not unlike what can be felt in many of the best songs by 10,000 Maniacs. Natalie Merchant may be considered horribly unfashionable now, but despite her occasionally prissy vibe, she’s really one of the few singers I’ve heard that shares many of Neko’s most remarkable qualities, and can communicate a similar balance of the gentle and the mighty.

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