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Music / Neko Case

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Neko Richelle Case (b. 8 September 1970) is an American Alternative Country star, known for her dark lyrics (which often contain disturbing subject matter wrapped up in nature motifs and animal metaphors), and for her distinct contralto vocal range. Born in Virginia, then raised in Washington State, Neko's early life was very difficult; not only did she grow up with Abusive Parents, but she lived in the same area that serial killer Gary Ridgeway (the Green River Killer) did his murders, and she often walked to school with a steak knife in her backpack. This rough upbringing greatly impacted the lyrics her adult self would go on to write. By age 15, she had enough, moved out, and began a music career that hasn't stopped since.

In addition to her solo career, Case is also a member of the indie rock band The New Pornographers, who have their own page. She was also part of the folk duo The Corn Sisters with Canadian folkie Carolyn Mark, and drummed for the pop-punk band Cub.

Not to be confused with Nico, though Case has covered her song "Afraid".


  • The Virginian (1997)

  • Furnace Room Lullaby (2000)

  • Canadian Amp (2001; extended play)

  • Blacklisted (2002)

  • The Tigers Have Spoken (2004; live album)

  • Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006)

  • Live From Austin, TX (2007; live album)

  • Middle Cyclone (2009)

  • The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You (2013)

  • Hell-On (2018)

Case's music contains the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: "Nearly Midnight, Honolulu" describes a real encounter Neko had while waiting at a bus stop with a mother and child. The kid started singing, causing the mother to scream, "Get the fuck away from me! Why don't you ever shut up?" In the song, Neko addresses the kid directly, urging them to never shut up. She adds that her own upbringing was like that, so she knows how hard this situation is, and sends the kid her love, even though she knows they'll probably never see each other again.

  • Animal Metaphor: In "People Got A Lotta Nerve", Neko compares herself first to a caged elephant going crazy and escaping, then to a captive orca drowning her trainer. In the chorus, she proclaims herself to be a maneater, and complains that men are somehow shocked when such creatures eat them.

  • Animated Music Video:
    • "Maybe Sparrow" is animated in 2D, and focuses on a young girl (possibly meant to represent Neko as a child) finding a dead bird. Live-action shots of Neko singing and playing guitar are spliced in.
    • "People Got A Lotta Nerve", also 2D animated, has a young girl escape from the belly of a whale to a mansion where other girls are exploring and interacting with animals. At first it seems fun, but two girls end up being eaten by a tiger they were playing with. When the main girl attempts to fire a rifle at a monkey, she is sent back into the whale.
    • "Last Lion of Albion" is done in stop-motion, and has a lion (implied to be the Last of His Kind) traveling on a raft through a decaying landscape.

  • Artist and the Band: Her first two albums were credited to Neko Case & Her Boyfriends. Starting with Blacklisted it's just been Case by herself.

  • Badass Boast: "This Tornado Loves You":
    My love, I am the speed of sound
    I left them motherless, fatherless
    Their souls dangling inside-out from their mouths
    But it's never enough-I want you

  • Bad People Abuse Animals: According to "My Uncle's Navy", Neko's abusive uncle used to force her to watch as he decapitated harmless garter snakes.

  • Brutal Bird of Prey: In "Maybe Sparrow", a sparrow is warned that "the hawk's alight til morning". The sparrow does not listen and ends up killed. (Despite the specific mention of a hawk, in the music video, it's a barn owl that menaces the sparrow.)

  • Cover Version: Most albums have at least one:

  • Creepy Crows: In "Things That Scare Me", Neko recalls being stalked by a flock of black birds as a child. As an adult, she wonders whether they may have actually been trying to warn her to leave her town before it's too late.

  • Devious Dolphins: Used as an Animal Metaphor in "People Got A Lotta Nerve":
    You know, they call them killer whales
    But you seemed surprised when it pinned you down
    To the bottom of the tank where you can't move around
    It took half your leg and both your lungs
    When I craved I ate hearts of sharks, I know you know it

  • Escaped Animal Rampage: The escaped circus tiger in "The Tigers Have Spoken". He is portrayed sympathetically; he only knew happiness as a bottle-fed cub, and went insane from being chained up in a tiny cage. While he does find freedom, it lasts very briefly before he gets shot.
    • Also alluded to in "People Got A Lotta Nerve". Neko compares herself to an elephant that goes crazy from "standing in a concrete cage", and goes on a rampage that ends with cops arriving to shoot it. Neko complains how people have the audacity to be shocked when dangerous animals act dangerous; as a metaphor, it can be read as Neko being disappointed in a lover who disagrees with her boy-chasing nature.

  • Foul Fox: The Title Track of Fox Confessor Brings The Flood is inspired by a Ukrainian folktale about a fox who tricks a wolf into confessing his sins, which the fox then uses against him, the moral being to be wary of those who promise salvation. In the song, Neko confesses to a fox who shames her for what she's done; when she seeks solace from him, he responds that her suffering has no meaning other than to give her something to cry over "when the death of your civilization precedes you". Having lost all faith in everything else, Neko is forced to put up with his taunts just so she has someone to believe in.

  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Neko's utter hatred for this trope led her to write "Pretty Girls". The titular girls are waiting alone and abandoned to have their abortions. Their plight breaks Neko's heart, and she tells them not to let unfaithful boyfriends or Slut-Shaming politicians get to them. Neko criticizes the idea that abortion makes one a bad person as infantilizing, saying that pro-life advocates act "as though you [the girls] don't know why you're here" and compares them to Savage Wolves. She ends the song by assuring the girls that both they and their choice are valid, and that the girls even have the power to change the world.

  • Gossipy Hens: From "Mood to Burn Bridges":
    So many people live in my town
    And mind to my business but none of their own
    They're all so happy now that I've done wrong
    I'm surprised they don't come up and thank me

  • Leave the Camera Running: Middle Cyclone ends with "Marais la Nuit" ("marsh at night"), which consists of half an hour of frogs croaking, as recorded outside of the farm she owns. On the vinyl version, it's edited down to half that length, but still takes up the entirety of side four of a double album.

  • Innocence Lost: "Maybe Sparrow" is a metaphor for this. The sweet but naive sparrow, representing childhood innocence, is warned of the hawk, representing the evils of the world. The sparrow refused to listen, and is killed instead. The music video also follows this theme, with a little girl finding a dead sparrow, then witnessing another sparrow being killed by an owl. At one point, the girl is seen dressed in a sparrow costume, to draw comparisons between these two innocent beings encountering the world's cruelty for the first (and, in the sparrow's case, last) time.

  • Kidnapping Bird of Prey: In the Animated Music Video for "People Got a Lotta Nerve", the house full of animals includes two hawks adorned in falconry hoods. When the protagonist attempts to shoot a monkey, the hawks pick her up and carry her to the orca whose stomach she escaped from earlier. The hawks drop her, and the orca swallows her back up.

  • Laser-Guided Karma: "Last Lion Of Albion" imagines billionnaires fleeing a dying Earth to settle on Mars... only to find out the hard way that it's populated by the predators they exterminated here.

  • Macabre Moth Motif: In "Prison Girls", the narrator follows a mysterious voice into "a passage so poorly lit, there are moths flying away from it." Ultimately, this does not end well for the protagonist.

  • Murder Ballad:
    • "Furnace Room Lullaby", in a Shout-Out to The Tell-Tale Heart, is about a woman who murders her abusive husband and burns his corpse. At night, she still hears his heart beating, and doesn't understand why.

    • "Deep Red Bells" is about Gary Ridgeway, aka the Green River Killer, who killed a confirmed 49 girls and women in Washington State during a 20-year period. A teenaged Neko lived in the area during the murders, and she wrote the song after he was caught. It's less about Ridgeway and even the murders themselves; rather, Neko mourns the victims for having their lives cut short, and chastises the police for ignoring the murders due to the victims mostly being poor and (in many instances) sex workers.

    • She has also covered the traditional murder ballad "Poor Ellen Smith".

  • Ominous Owl: "This Tornado Loves You", about a Stalker with a Crush, mostly uses a sentient tornado as its metaphor. Towards the end, though, we get these lines:

    My love, I'm an owl on the sill in the evening
    But morning finds you still warm and breathing

    • In the "Maybe Sparrow" music video, a barn owl threatens the little songbird (even though the lyrics name a hawk as the enemy).

  • Small Town Boredom: A rare positive example with "Thrice All American", painting Tacoma, WA as something she loves exactly because it's this trope as well as a Dying Town.

    God bless California! Make way for the Wal-Marts!
    I hope they don't find you, Tacoma.

  • Shout-Out:
    • "Furnace Room Lullaby" is inspired by The Tell-Tale Heart, in which a murderer's guilt causes them to hear their victim's heart still beating.

    • The title characters of "Margaret vs. Pauline" are named after two characters from Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar.

    • The Title Track of Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is inspired by a Ukrainian myth about a fox tricks a wolf into confessing to terrible deeds, which the fox then uses against him.

  • Yandere: "This Tornado Loves You", in both the literal and figurative sense. Taken literally, a tornado tries to impress someone (presumably human) by killing countless people and destroying entire counties, insisting that the destruction will have been for naught if they are rejected. Figuratively, it tells of a Stalker with a Crush who doesn't care who they hurt, so long as they get their lover in the end.