Saturday, January 11, 2014
Track of the Week: Neko Case, "The Needle Has Landed"
Neko Case is on a very short list of performers whose new albums I buy as a matter of course, without hearing a note or reading a review. There are few, if any artists whose body work can match what she's done since the turn of the 21st century. Even if the quality of her songs drops off in the future, I'd still be buying the records for Case's voice alone, a bold brassy instrument that just cuts right into the listener.
On "The Needle Has Landed" she dials down the considerable force of her pipes at the song's start, eerily intoning the words over a spare, haunting minor key accompaniment. I hear in the words the narrator coming back to a hostile place and a lover she left years ago. The lines "if I knew then what's so obvious now/ you'd still be here, baby" just drip with painful regret.
More than just about any song I've ever heard, "The Needle Has Landed" encapsulates the feeling of a past and people from it that you just can't escape, but also can never go back to. My life has settled down now, but during the stretch between 1998 and 2011 I lived in two different countries, five different states, and eight different cities. Lots of people I love have been left behind, and I have tried to return to some of these places, only to find them altered and foreign to me. Late on a rainy night I think about the twists and turns that have led me to where I am, and how badly I would just like to say hello to some of the wonderful people I left on the way.