Neko Case album openers


I’ve been in a weird place lately, in which every life moment is defined by either Cloud Nothings’ new album or by Neko Case songs.  That’s probably not a positive thing, but at least the soundtrack is good.

Case’s most recent album, The Worse Things Get…, sits in a sort of unique place in her discography (for me).  If someone were to ask me which of Case’s albums is my favorite, I’d quickly answer Middle Cyclone or Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.  Yet if I took the time to actually list out the songs I most often play from each of her albums, The Worse Things Get… would easily win out.

How to account for this?  As a former (college) radio DJ, I’m inclined to say it has something to do with the sequencing of the album.  Of course, radio DJs always think we know how to put a bunch of songs in order better than actual artists do…

Instead, I think it has more to do with each album’s opening statement.  The Worse Things Get's “Wild Creatures” is brilliant, but as a leadoff track it begins the album by confronting the audience.  Directed to other women, Case asks, “Hey little girl, would you like to be / The king's pet or the king?”  It's a position of acerbic empathy, acknowledging that women aren't afforded the same options as men (“I am fighting to be wild”), while still challenging them to make independent choices.  Don't settle for being an ornament; you can be your own person.

Past Case albums have opened with softer stances.  Middle Cyclone's “This Tornado Loves You” is a humorously sad tale of a tornado trying to find love (and, naturally, destroying everything in the process).  Fox Confessor's “Margaret vs. Pauline” pits the stories of its eponymous heroines against each other; one who seems fated to misfortune while the other leads a charmed life.  Accompanied by a forlon, delicate piano line, one can't help but pull for the underdog Margaret, even as “her bravery is mistaken for thrashing in the lake.”  Pitchfork’s review of the album nailed this song perfectly, noting the presence of “something palpably uncomfortable— a vague, inescapable sense of loss.”  Likewise, “Timber” and “Set Out Running,” openers for Case’s first two albums, both capture that sense of loss, albeit set within the frame of personal heartbreak.

The lone exception here is Blacklisted's “Things That Scare Me,” in which Case assumes the persona of a would-be killer: “The hammer clicks in place / The whole world's gonna pay.”  It's a harrowing lead-in to the next track, “Deep Red Bells,” about growing up in Tacoma while the Green River Killer was active.

Each of the album openers can be found in GTI’s Neko Case mix on Spotify:

Cats in the Cradle

Sometimes when I’m awake and my wife and 15-month old son are asleep, I’ll get out of bed and go sit at my computer desk, and almost decide to not bring the baby monitor with me.  I always do - it makes more sense for me to have it than my wife, since, after all, I’m awake and she is not - but sometimes I have a moment of selfishness and think, “Maybe he won’t wake up this time and I can get away with an hour of not worrying about it.”  And sometimes I just don’t want to be the only one awake all the time.

Tonight I have the monitor, like I always do, but this time it’s more out of guilt than logic or duty.  Today I feel like I failed my son, even if just a little, and the least I can do to make up for it is to be there if he needs me.

He had an Easter egg hunt at daycare today, and I left work an hour early to be there for it.  By almost random chance I asked his teacher yesterday, “Do parents usually go to this?”  Luckily I did, because she said yes, and there was no possibility for my wife to go, so I went.

I arrived, and like I always do when I pick him up, I try to catch a glimpse of what he’s doing when he doesn’t know I’m there.  Whenever he sees me or hears my voice, he usually stops whatever he’s doing, yells, and runs over to me.  But I like to know what occupies his world when we’re not around, so I try to be stealthy, even if only for a moment.

Today, he was lined up along the wall with his fellow 12-18 month olds (daycares seem to like to do this with kids), all wearing their paper rabbit-ear hats and holding their egg baskets.  It’s strange to see him seemingly following directions; that child does not exist in our house.

It was only a few seconds before he saw me, dropped his Easter basket, and charged over to me.  But unlike most days when he just wants to be held and then go home, today he was supposed to be getting ready for the egg hunt.  Instead, he wanted to show me things.  He walked over to the wall where pictures of him and his classmates are hanging.  He pointed to the picture of a little boy (“Oh, is that Franklin?” I said), then a little girl (“That’s Mackenzie!”), [these names are fake, btw] and then finally himself, (“Is that you?”).

Then he walked over to one of those tables that looks like a wooden kitchen, with shelves for the plastic pots, pans, and cups.  Out came a skillet, then another, then a cup.  Each held to me, like, “Hey, check this out!”  But at this point I was keenly aware that everyone else had their kids in their coats and was moving outside for the egg hunt.  So I just said, “Okay, let’s put these away.”  He kept trying to show me more kitchen supplies, as I continued to encourage him to put them away.

It wasn’t until hours later and he was already asleep, that it hit me: this way his way of introducing me to his world.  That world I always try to spy for a moment before he sees me, he was willing to share freely.  But today I didn’t think we had time for it.

Ever since I became a father, I’ve had “Cats in the Cradle” playing in my mind.  I was around 12 when I first heard that song, but over 20 years later, it’s come rushing back, always an ever-present warning.  Today I ignored it, and I wish I hadn’t.

As parents, we bear an enormous responsibility.  We are the shepherds of our kids’ discovery of the world.  We arrange the pieces to make sure that happens in a safe and positive way.  But it’s important to remember that our kids are also our biggest fans, and they want us to be actively involved in their worlds.  Sometimes it’s important to remember that there’s a time to shuffle pieces, and a time to let it go and just play the game.

I think I redeemed myself during the egg hunt.  While it was designed so all the kids found three, my son was happy with just the first one we found together.  He was also the first kid to figure out that if you kept throwing that plastic egg on the ground, eventually it’d split open (hello, candy!).

Still, I’m stuck dwelling on the pots and pans.  It’s probably why I can’t sleep tonight.  But at least this time I gladly have the monitor nearby.

City Reign, “See What It’s Worth”

I’ll admit, I have been woefully behind over the last few months.  I blame it on the “Should I? Shouldn’t I? Let’s do Tumblr!” decision that happened when went kaput (i.e. I decided not to renew my hosting subscription).

These songs were catalogued in The Beginning of Spring (2014), a little mix I did over at the old site which is now archived for your reading/listening pleasure at  Several of these deserve special mention (okay, all of them do, but I know my track record).

The first is from GTI’s friends in City Reign, who recently released “See What It’s Worth,” the newest single from the band’s 2013 debut, Another Step.  There’s an element of menace that builds as the song progresses, a condemnation of settling for the humdrum of the office cubicle farm: “You get up every morning and work hard for the things you don’t love.”  (Written as I sit in one of those cubicles…)

As I said in my review of Another Step, it’s a stunner of a track, especially as its “raucous guitars and drums burst into a spitfire of rage.  This is how rock n’ roll was meant to be played.”

And for the official video, the band wasn’t content to simply film themselves performing the track with the studio version for audio; instead, they recorded an entirely new live version.  Check it out:

2014 seems to be the Year to Talk Shit About Grunge. It’s only April and already we’ve achieved groupthink. It never ceases to amaze me how often this happens in the “indie” community.

Tags: grunge


See + hear Father John Misty play Johnny Cash’s “Baby Ride Easy” in the desert.

I can’t recall how I was those days anymore

Hi.  I’m Greg.  I used to write a music blog called Given and Taken in Ink.  But then I had a kid and couldn’t keep up with it anymore.  (Yep, blaming it all on the little dude.)  So now I’m here.  Hopefully this works out better for everyone.

Anyway…I can’t stop listening to the new Cloud Nothings record, Here and Nowhere Else.  And it’s kind of appropriate for the moment, I think:

We’re Not Here (At Least Not Yet)

Check out for the good stuff.