Music Reviews
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

Neko Case Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

(Anti) Rating - 10/10

You know those comprehension tests: "hat is to head as glove is to...?", "Ben Affleck is to acting as shit is to...?", that sort of thing. Because, even in these post O' Brother times, the word "country" still scares some people, I am trying to come up with an analogous "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is to country as X is to Y". Because, yes, while Neko Case's fifth album can definitely be described as country, it cannot be stressed how inappropriate genre-labels are for something so fucking brilliant.

Having had flashes of greatness on her past four albums, Neko Case has finally produced a work that delivers from start to finish. Twelve noirish charms dangling on a bracelet-each song is exquisitely composed and meticulously played. As ever, the vocal work is unparalleled. Those familiar with Case only as the backing vocalist for Canadian supergroup The New Pornographers might not be prepared for the subtleties and character of her voice that come across on her solo releases pitched somewhere between a more palatable Loretta Lynn and a less cloying Patsy Cline (not that either Lynn or Cline are unpalatable or cloying, Case is just better); on the gospel barnstormer John Saw the Number the delivery is even reminiscent of Elvis at his very best in its sheer vitality (and that's on record, I can't wait to see this live).

The most remarkable aspect of this album for devotees of Case is her blossoming as a songwriter. While previous albums have included one or two great original songs and plenty of others that were simply very good, Fox Confessor Brings The Flood contains only great songs. From the tale of inequality and envy of the opener Margaret Vs Pauline "One left a sweater sitting on a train, the other lost three fingers at the cannery" right through to the touching tale of a lost companion of the closing track The Needle Has Landed the album is shot through dramatic imagery, dark humour, and palpable emotion. Aided by a stellar cast of musicians including the Sadies, erstwhile Giant Sanders Calexico and Mr Giant Sand himself Howe Gelb, the tracks are realised to fantastic effect, every element working to the strengths of the songs and Case's remarkable voice.

Put simply, this album is as good as anything you are going to hear this year, if not better than everything. Anyone put off by having to make the trip to the country section of the record shop or by any preconceived notions of what a female singer-songwriter is, and I imagine there will be a few who are, will be missing out. You owe it to yourself to listen to this album. Oh, the answers to the comprehension test: Hat is to head as glove is to hand; Ben Affleck is to acting as shit is to my shoe; Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is to country as Bringing It All Back Home is to folk.