Because the main character in the longish fiction piece I’m working on is a female rockstar, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to listen to women who sing. Now, I like a lot of female singers. Love a lot of them, even. But my ear’s internal bias seems to be toward the male voice, which makes me kind of sad. My last.fm is a ridiculous sausage fest, with Liz Phair the only woman in the Top 10. Then you have to scroll for a fortnight until you find Lucinda Williams at 23, Tegan and Sara at 32 and finally Neko at 35.
Oh, the shame. So much shame. But, now that I realize the problem I can remedy it. And in doing that I’ve spent a lot of time this week ping ponging between Stevie Nicks and Neko Case.
Neko came into my life through The New Pornographers, who came into my life because of Sonja, a woman I worked with at the little software company on the prairie. One day in like 2003 Sonja was all “Do you like The New Pornographers?” And I was all, “the wha?” And she sent me a bunch of MP3s. About 32 seconds into “Mass Romantic” I was all in.
From there I spiralled into a deep and consuming love affair with Neko Case’s voice. She is the most fun to sing along with — all belty and torch songy. So delicious. Now, because I am super fancy like that, you can listen to Neko Case’s Greatest Hits According to Me on Spotify. Look at this old dog learning new tricks.
From The Virginian
Lonely Old Lies: In the making of this list, this song won a very hard-fought battle over “Polar Nettles” off of “Middle Cyclone.” If you don’t remember I set up the arbitrary rule where each Greatest Hits comp can only have fifteen songs. While I don’t want to say the song won only because it’s the sole representative off of Neko’s first album, but it kind of did.
Furnace Room Lullaby
Set Out Running: “If I new heartbreak was coming, I would’ve set out running.” Damn, wouldn’t we all? Probably, but we shouldn’t. Some heartbreak is worth it, but even so that lyric is fabulous. “I just can’t shake this feeling that I’m nothing in our eyes.” OH, Neko. I know, I know that feeling all too well.
Guided By Wire: I said this yesterday and it still holds true today: “Guided by Wire” is my favorite Neko Case song. Each line of the song just gets me at the very center of my bloody heart where emotional truth lives. “But I owe much to the nameless and all the surrogates. Those who’re singing my life back to me.” I could quote every single line and explain with words and exclamation points the perfectness and what it means to me. I will spare you that. However, I will remind you that for many iterations the tagline to this very site was “Life is not a constant thing, it’s only made of short stories.” That’s until I stole the Soul Asylum lyric.
Mood to Burn Bridges: I love the sassy, fuck offness of this one telling people to tuck away their moral advice. Nice.
Furnace Room Lullaby: I could listen to the first 20 seconds of this song over and over and over again until my head fell off. Neko’s voice and just those two strums of guitar. Gah!
Deep Red Bells: “And tastes like being poor and small. And popsicles in the summer.”
I Wish I was the Moon Tonight: We all get a little sad & lonely sometimes, right? Neko’s sad and lonely is lovelier than mine.
Runnin’ Out of Fools: There are some songs that you hear and you’re like “God Damn, did they write that about me?” Then you realize of course they didn’t because they don’t even know you. But that doesn’t even matter because it’s kind of comforting to know you aren’t the only one. “Now you wanna break my heart twice? Is that why you got in touch with me? Oh, guess you must be runnin’ out of fools.”
The Tigers Have Spoken
The Tigers Have Spoken: I really like the metaphor of the tiger on his chain and going crazy walking in circles. Also, tigers.
Train from Kansas City: I always like to include a cover song on these imaginary greatest hits comps. I thought about going with Neko’s cover of “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” because, it’s Tom Waits. At the last minutes I went with this one because it’s from the female point of view. Also, I love the line “I’ll be back in the time it takes to break a heart.”
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Margaret vs. Pauline: The imagery in this one is so wonderful. Girl with parking lot eyes, jaws aching with wanting, love steams like rage. . .
John Saw That Number: My religious education mostly consists of the Catholicism that leaked onto me from my extended family, many viewings of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and whatever I gleaned from that Christopher Moore book. Still, I like tall the holy, holy and lord of this one.
Maybe Sparrow: I really like the violin at the beginning of this one.
This Tornado Loves You: I was terrified of tornadoes as a kid. It was a fear passed down from my Grammu to my mom to me and was only exacerbated by love of “The Wizard of Oz.” At the same time, my fondest memory of my Grandpa St. Martin who died when I was like ten, involves tornado warnings and basements and that reassuring warmth of someone who loves you sacrificing their own comfort so you feel safe. This was a feeling that was sorely lacking in my childhood. This song reminds me of my Grandpa forsaking sleep to sit in a basement during a thunderstorm.
People Got a Lotta Nerve: This is a great song we don’t need to argue that, but I love this song, much like the one above, for the memory it invokes. This time it involves my friend Wolfdogg playing this song on my guitar at a Rock & Roll Bookclub a few years ago. While he played his beautiful daughter Delilah sang. It was touching and awesome and all the things I love about my bookclub.
UPDATE: Emily Lloyd pointed me at this beautiful cover of Neko’s “Star Witness” and it’s so amazing I had to tack it on the end here.