Neko Case's animal instincts are all over her new album, Middle Cyclone, much as they were on 2006's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. It's almost as if each track were doused in a bestiary of feral scents, her siren's voice purring and howling with the grace of an Appalachian cougar (on whose automotive equivalent she crouches in the cover photo) while she assumes the identity of a succession of critters. The orca on "People Got a Lotta Nerve" sings a lethally catchy chorus: "I'm a man, man, man eater" (leaving potential lovers quavering in their boots), her phrasing as tart as Paul Rigby's McGuinn-like ringing guitar. Case also channels an elephant and a magpie before simply declaring, "I'm an animal," giving in to her primal tendencies, which subsequently surface in a different form on the noirish nightmare "Prison Girls." On "This Tornado Loves You," meanwhile, she morphs into an amorous whirlwind turned deadly by desire. Natural forces carve Case's songs as surely as they did the Grand Canyon, leaving spectacular erosion behind, Case grappling with urges and sounds both alluring and dangerous. Often sounding like a 21st-century Patsy Cline, she doesn't fall to pieces, but arranges them in unsettling patterns, caressed by her resilient voice, her whip-smart band weaving elegant Americana textures. Crooked Fingers, essentially the alter ego of former Archer of Loaf and frequent Case associate Eric Bachmann, will open. All ages.
Sun., April 26, 7:30 p.m., 2009