From her early punk girl band days through her alt-country albums, through her ongoing work with the New Pornographers, Neko Case's torch-rocker voice has been her calling card. After Case released her fifth full-length studio album, Middle Cyclone, in late 2009, she told the New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones, "I've never really listened to my voice and gone, 'That is a quality instrument.' It's more like, 'Okay, that's good and fucking loud.' I'm kind of the horn section of any band I'm in." While her voice does take over a room—when the New Pornographers opened their Together tour at the Bearsville Theater in May, her vocal instrument was amped up to 11—Case's solo work explores sonic textures outside her singing and showcases her visceral lyrics, which tend toward clipped narratives of raw emotion. "Magpie to the Morning," a slow burner from Middle Cyclone, opens with this moody set piece: "Magpie comes a-calling / drops a marble from the sky / tin roof sounds alarm / and wake up child. / Let this be a warning says the magpie to the morning / don't let this fading summer pass you by." You can hear the urgent poignancy of the bird's advice in the plaintive tone of a singer on the verge of turning 40. Especially when she sings it loud.
Neko Case will perform at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock on February 1. Lost in the Trees will open. General admission tickets are $40. (845) 679-4406; www.bearsvilletheater.com.
—Brian K. Mahoney