"The Worse Things Get..." marks Case's sixth studio album including old friends and new acquaintances. The 12 tight songs equal 12 stories masterminded in a foreign, yet familiar, country-tinged pop atmosphere.
Record label, release date and producer: Anti- Records released "The Worse Things Get..." September 3, 2013; it was executively produced by Case.
RIYL: Jenny Lewis, Lucinda Williams and Kelly Hogan.
Hometown: Alexandria, Va.
Standout tracks: The shuffling "Night Still Comes" welcomes one with familiarity as it presents Case's signature blend of country and indie. A step up and a track down, "Man," from beginning to end, exhibits more bite than the rest with impressive guitar work by M. Ward and Paul Rigby. The head-bobber/body-swayer "City Swans" gently mellows via cello and a solid backbeat.
About the artist: Born on September 8, 1970, Case, whose father was in the United States Air Force, lived in many places throughout her adolescence before settling in Tacoma, Wash. In 1994, she crossed the northern border to attend Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, British Columbia where she drummed in various bands including Maow and Cub. Post-graduation, she recorded with the New Pornographers on their debut "Mass Romantic" in 1998 before leaving for the States. Since, she has recorded and toured with and without Her Boyfriends, the Corn Sisters and the New Pornographers, as well as appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien and the Late Show with David Letterman.
Guests: My Morning Jacket's Bo Koster and Carl Broemel provide various keys and stringed instruments on the album with Jim James for extra vocal strength. She and Him's M. Ward contributes lead and rhythm guitar to complement Case's honest voice. New Pornographer A.C. Newman was summoned from Canada for his natural delivery.
This label: Founded in 1999, Anti- Records is an American label responsible for releasing albums for a wide variety of artists such as Merle Haggard, the Locust and Sage Francis. Along with Hellcat and Burning Heart Records, Anti- is a sister label of Epitaph Records, founded by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz. The label achieved popularity after releasing Tom Waits' 12th studio album, "Mule Variations," which sold over 500,000 copies and earned a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Awards and accolades: Case's 2002 release "Blacklisted" hit No. 31 on the "Billboard Top Independent Albums" and 34 on the "Heatseekers" list. Her 2006 effort "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood" peaked at No. 4 on the "Top Independent Albums" list and 54 on both "The Billboard 200" and "Top Internet Albums" charts. The Grammy nominated "Middle Cyclone" reached No. 1 on the "Top Independent Albums" list, 3 on "The Billboard 200," 17 on the "Top Internet Albums" chart.
Play it while: Making all things right by destroying your ex's possessions.
What the critics say: "A lot of these emotionally dense tracks feel like they were written out of necessity. Sure, Case was due to drop a new record and follow up on 'Middle Cyclone's' success. But 'The Worse Things Get,' as she tells it, is the result of a specific set of circumstances in her life. It's wholly solipsistic. By nature, the listener is alienated, as we tend to care most about the songs we can relate to. But 'The Worse Things Get' isn't about us or even for us. These 40 minutes belong to Neko Case. It's her cleansing." Jon Hadusek, Consequence of Sound.
Playing in St. Louis: Neko Case will perform at the Pageant on October 20, 2013.