Neko Case’s “Hell-On” Is Harrowing and Absorbing

Her gorgeous melodies deliver tales of trauma, disappointment, and sadness.

Album Review

Neko Case

Neko Case has such a strong, commanding voice that it’s hard to see how she could convey vulnerability, but Hell-On brims with sadness and regret. Her alt-country roots long are since forgotten—this riveting art-pop work mixes gorgeous, unpredictable melodies with inventive, sometimes oblique lyrics to tell stories of trauma, disappointment, and sadness. “Bad Luck” ponders love’s failure, while “My Uncle’s Navy” revisits a chapter of abuse and denial and “Curse of the I-5 Corridor” offers a rueful personal chronicle. Along with her usual bandmates, the gifted support team includes k.d. lang, Mark Lanegan, Beth Ditto and Steve Berlin, though Case would be just as compelling performing a capella. A cohesive album in the old-fashioned sense, Hell-On is a harrowing and absorbing experience unlike anything else.

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