Neko Case proved herself a gifted singer on the good but uneven The Virginian. Furnace Room Lullaby is more than good; it’s damn near perfect. Case even turned up in Time magazine recently as evidence of what an alt-country singer looks like. God love an underground heroine (and ex-punk drummer) who makes music a Republican could cozy up to. Like her debut, Lullaby is all about Case’s voice. Technically proficient, but with romantic disillusionment running through it like a fault line, it’s the year’s most convincing instrument so far. And even on haunting numbers, like the hooky opener, “Set Out Running,” and the plaintive “Porchlight,” Case also manages to convey a smirk that’s sexy in a womanly way a Britney-fied America is dangerously close to taking for granted. It’s a work that could easily be a lost classic from 1962, stuck on a beat-up jukebox for decades, but it isn’t whittled out of nostalgia or kitsch. Case is a genuine performer who has found a rich vein of musical longing and regret to mine. Lullaby echoes well outside the shaft; if Case records nothing else, she’s already made her Sun Sessions.

Categories: Music