Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The top 10 albums of 2006: No. 5

Neko Case
Fox Confessor
Brings the Flood

Once upon a time, there was a singer named Neko. Neko loved animals. Whether eagle or lion or fox or sparrow, she cared not. All were regal creatures, and all deserved songs.

And yet her heart first went out to a girl: Margaret. Margaret worked at the cannery, where she lost three fingers. She once rode a train with a girl who had the smoothest waves of cinnamon hair she'd ever seen. Her name was Pauline. Everything was hard for Margaret, but everything was easy for Pauline. This wasn't fair, Neko decided.

But before she could help Margaret, her heart went out to a woman who's true love died in a car. A 1969 falcon sedan, if you care. The paper didn't. It said '75.

It dawned on Neko as she wrote these songs that she reserved the most tender place in her heart for strangers. And yet she took no stranger home with her the day she left the party at 3 a.m. But she did accept a Valium from the bride.

When Neko thought about recent events --- poor Spanaway, widows toasting at St. Angel, the laughs she had with her friend "holding out for that teenage feeling" --- she had a lot of regrets. So she sang about them.

But soon she met the fox confessor. He distracted her. He shamed her. Neko panicked.

"Who married me to these orphaned blues?" she cried.

"It's not for you to know, but for you to weep and wonder," he snapped.

Troubled, Neko sang "John Saw That Number" to take her mind off what the fox confessor told her. But it was no use. The madness came. A man Neko knew thought he saw wolves, so he turned his furniture into firewood.

All this distressed Neko. She felt as if she were in the jaws of a lion until she found a compatriot in a similar predicament: a sparrow perched, preparing to fly.

"The hawks alight till morning," Neko warned, "you'll never pass beyond the gate." But it was too late.

At last, Neko sang about herself: "I can say that I've lived here in honor and danger / But I'm just an animal and cannot explain a life."

And the fox confessor laughed.

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