It took tackling tough emotions for NEKO CASE to make her most honest record to date.
Neko case has always been the running kind, but after years spent on the move — personally and professionally — life finally caught up with her.
“In the 2000s, I lost both my father and my grandma, who really raised me, and I never slowed down to feel sad about it,” says the 43-year-old roots singer-songwriter. “I’m trucking along doing my thing — making records, touring — and then around 2010, it hit me. And I became seriously depressed and was dealing with a serious amount of grief.”
That pain has been transformed into the beauty of Case’s latest, the extravagantly titled opus The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (Anti- Records, $20). Rather than wrap her emotions in metaphor or fable, as she’s done on her past six albums, Case has finally written a starkly autobiographical and deeply personal collection. “I was in a situation where I had to look inward,” she says. “It took about three years to process everything. But once I stopped fighting it, that’s when I came through to the other side.”
Balancing Case’s reflective lyrics is the album’s furious sonic thrust, which comes, in part, from her growing competence as a guitarist. “I didn’t start playing until I was 30,” she says. “Now that I’m better at it, I want to play guitar like I was a 15-year-old dude in my parents’ basement — just kind of rocking out a little more joyously and making loud sounds. I got to experiment a lot more and challenge myself on this record.”
As she returns to the emotional themes that dominate songs like “City Swan,” “Where Did I Leave That Fire” and “Ragtime,” Case notes that while a sense of single-mindedness helped propel her art and career for years, it nearly became her undoing. “At a certain point you either decide to become a self-aware human being and deal with this grown-up stuff head on or you go around it,” she says. “I chose not to go around it.”
Case, who has a deeply personal bond with her fans, is wary but optimistic about how the new album will be received. “I trust the audience,” she says. “They’re either going to like it or think I’m a nut job. But that’s always been the case with any record I’ve done. I’m hopeful they’ll like it.”