The Tigers Have Spoken
There must be something in the water in Canada. From the Arcade Fire’s Funeral to A.C. Newman’s Slow Wonder, 2004 was a good year for our quiet neighbors to the north. Neko Case is better known from her performances with Canada’s New Pornographers, but she makes quite a noise on The Tigers Have Spoken (also released in 2004).
Despite what one would imagine from her bubbly work with the Pornographers, Case is effective in the context of this album, which is dominated by the country music she grew up with. A chugging cover of the Shangri-La’s “The Train from Kansas City” and a stellar re-reading of Loretta Lynn’s “Rated X” are just a few of the treats. It’s a credit to Neko’s songwriting, however, that her originals are as convincing as the classics she plays, though this comes at the cost of forming a distinctive sound. The Sadies also impress with their slightly psychedelic country sound, applying pedal steel, banjo and upright bass to Case’s storytelling, creating an enjoyable, though slightly overbearing, package.
Like her rival for the title of indie-gal-with-the-golden-pipes, (Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley), Case dabbles in country, but she’s infinitely more credible as a country chanteuse, even ignoring Neko’s twang (she was born in Virginia), which is on display via the album’s stage banter. Her chesty alto isn’t instantly as satisfying (or as sexy) as Lewis’ enthralling voice, but the way Case surrounds herself with such incredible musicians (both the topnotch Sadies and the supergroup New Pornographers) and with such great songs, puts her at a clear advantage over those with whom she competes.