Making the Case for Neko

Ten things you should know about her before she plays the Paramount.

1. The 42-year-old singer/songwriter’s sixth LP, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, is receiving near-universal rave reviews. One detractor: The AV Club gave it a C, claiming it has “the same kind of innocuous sound as radio-friendly groups like The Civil Wars and Of Monsters and Men.”

2. The artist has deep ties to the Pacific Northwest. She grew up in Tacoma and eventually moved to Seattle, where she worked at Hattie’s Hat in Ballard and lived in Pioneer Square’s Washington Shoe Building—until they kicked her out to convert it to condos. “This city doesn’t support artists,” she told The Seattle Times before relocating to Chicago in 2000. “All it cares about is money.”

3. The Worse Things Get . . . is her most personal (and verbosely titled) album. It was fueled by a long depression following the death of her grandmother, whom she loved dearly, and the death of her alcoholic parents, whom she didn’t. “There’s no grand excellence to it,” she told The Guardian about depression. “It was just almost the gulaggy boringness of it that’ll kill you. You’re just in this murk. And you’re with other humans, but you lose all your human skills, and it’s just like you’re in this plastic bag and you can’t quite connect with people.”

4. The Worse Things Get . . . has an impressive list of collaborators, including M. Ward and members of My Morning Jacket, Los Lobos, and Visqueen.

5. Two of its best songs are also the most different from each another. “Man” is an up-tempo indictment of gender stereotypes. “I’m a man,” she sings. “That’s what you raised me to be/I’m not an identity crisis/This was planned.” Later, on “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu,” Case provides an a cappella account of a 5-year-old being berated by her mother. “Why don’t you ever shut up?” Case sings, voicing the words of Mom to Daughter. “Get the fuck away from me.” “Man” finds Case raging, while on “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu,” she’s sympathetic—apt perimeters for a record that falls somewhere in between.

6. She’s fun to follow on Twitter (@NekoCase). Sample tweet: “I wonder if the people who use autotune will be sad when they are old and there is no actual record of their voice to play for grand kids?”

7. Case’s last album, 2009’s Middle Cyclone, earned two Grammy nominations.

8. As if being a critically acclaimed solo artist weren’t enough, Case is also a member of indie-rock supergroup the New Pornographers.

9. She thinks the word “cunt” is underrated. “It’s such a good word,” she told Pitchfork recently. “It just feels so good to say. It feels jolly.”

10. In addition to original material, Case does great covers. Her new album features an interpretation of Nico’s “Afraid,” but she’s also tackled tunes by Tom Waits, Neil Young, Harry Nilsson, and Hank Williams. Backed by her excellent band, you’ll likely hear a few at the Paramount tonight. And if you hear the “c” word, that just means she likes you. With Pickwick. The Paramount, 911 Pine St., 682-1414, $28.25–$33.25. 7:30 p.m. Wed., Sept. 18.

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