Case’s voice bobs like a carefree duck chillin’ on a pond during swaggering closing number ‘Ragtime’. It’s a bristly, buoyant number splashed with fantasy and Kim Deal-like basslines; there are triumphant trumpets, ’60s lounge piano licks (and… clavinet?) that provide plenty of warm fuzzy-belly feelings and bolster self-esteem – just try and forget her mantra of “I am one and the same, I am useful and strange,’ repeated ad infinitum until the music halts.
‘Local Girl’ is similarly addictive. There’s light, continental guitar, waltzing blobs of bass and enormous chimes – though the record is intensely intimate and journal-like, the music is grandiose, embellished with all kinds of sonic filigree and intriguing aural trinkets. ‘Man’ is so jaunty and syrupy and sweet you’d think She & Him were involved – you’d be right in thinking so, as M. Ward does in fact lend guitar to the track. Folk ode ‘Calling Card’ takes flight through a shadow-dappled copse, showing that whilst Case may be in the throes of grief, there are still enough chinks of light to relish.
‘Where Did I Leave That Fire’, creeps onto our sonar with submarine blip-bloops and Mariana Trench darkness. Jaws-esque bass heralds Case’s chilling voice: “I shook off all the strength I’d earned/ I wanted so badly not to be me.” It’s creaking with introspective doubt and deals with the loss of identity; Case isn’t afraid to warp music to fit her tonal mould. Horror synths and alt. rock axes grind against filthy jazz sax and the shimmer of chromatic piano; above the faintly Gaelic folk drone, she weeps her epic Gothic dirge. ‘Nearly Midnight, Honolulu’, is bone-achingly furious and distressing (see: “Get the fuck away from me/ why don’t you ever shut up?” and/or “My mother, she did not love me,”) despite the fact it’s a cappella, with only a drop of reverb and layered harmonies/backing vocals detracting from Case’s flawless voice. Like ‘Hide & Seek’ by Imogen Heap, Case summons more than you’d ever imagine using less than you’d think possible.
Case’s record comes after a lengthy bout of what she labelled “grief and mourning.” Of confronting her inner turmoil, she said: “I had to look inward more than I wanted. It was sobering, and I often felt like I was blurring the lines of mental illness.” What was undoubtedly a turbulent time has birthed a record flowing with all manner of emotions, ranging from wide-eyed hope to white-knuckled rage. For Case, this is likely a cathartic effort; it’s improbable this path will be revisited, unless more tragedy befalls her, but it’s a tremendous listen and a wonderful demonstration of her talents nonetheless.