File Under: Alternative, Indie, Singer/Songwriter
My ears started their blind date in an awesome way: with the captivating voice of Neko Case. In fact, I almost tricked myself into thinking I was about to embark upon a full album of nothing but Neko (#nothingbutNeko). But then came my first exposure to K.D. Lang, at the forefront of “Honey and Smoke“. Carrying a much more soothing and classical sound, Lang contrasts and complements Neko nicely. When Laura Veirs steps out from the backing vocals, the full trifecta becomes clear. At times it becomes difficult for me to distinguish between Case and Veirs, however, when it comes down to it there’s just something about the vocals of Neko Case that chill me to the bone unlike any other. Her voice is beautiful, stirring, and proving increasingly indescribable. While similar in tone, Veirs lacks that unnamable quality that truly makes Neko the most mesmerizing voice in the alt/indie scene today.
Meanwhile, Veirs becomes the standout creative voice behind case/lang/veirs, with more writing credits on the record than either Case or Lang. And she’s absolutely phenomenal, just listen to the superb “Best Kept Secret” and try saying you disagree. And although at the base similar, when her voice intertwines with Case’s, it’s truly a treat.
Lang fronts a decent amount of the record, ultimately grounding the trio with her effortless control. A song like “Blue Fires,” isn’t my normal cup of tea, but I have to say I have no intention of ever skipping over it. There’s something unique yet familiarly comforting in Lang’s sound that keeps my full attention. Her backing vocals are no different, and her contribution to the end of “Supermoon” is one of the most understated yet beautiful elements on an already flawless song.
But those golden magic carpet vocals of Neko Case remain the defining element of case/lang/veirs and I can’t say I’m surprised. As the only artist I’m previously familiar with on the album, I’m going to break my usual “blind” assessment for a moment if you’ll forgive me. This is both the same and different Neko Case all in one. I’ve covered the same portion and before I embarrass myself further with trying to describe the indescribable let’s talk about what’s different: restraint. That’s not to say she’s normally out of control, just a commentary on what she’s reeled in to collaborate with these two other fantastic musicians. The darker, more unorthodox gothic tones Case is known for as a songwriter are rarely heard here, but when they do pop in they work exceptionally well, as in “Atomic Number,” showing extraordinary control. The brash, biting, hard-hitting songs like The Worse Things Get‘s “Midnight In Honolulu” are non-existent, and while I absolutely adore that element of her songwriting, I can’t say it would belong here anyway. Simply put, this may be a more accessible Case, but in no way is this a less remarkable one.
In short, while largely unfamiliar with the history and output of two of the three voices on case/lang/veirs, I can clearly see how they’ve come to be such respected names in music. All three of Case, Lang and Veirs add their own unique element to create a fantasticly unique album of its own. Highly recommended.
Highlights include: “Best Kept Secret,” “Down,” “Supermoon,” and “Why Do We Fight“
Going on a blind date with case/lang/veirs: