I have a long list of artists I'm really hoping to see new material from in 2012. So in lieu of not having any new material I have to settle for revisiting their most recent recorded efforts to see if they still stand the test of time, so to speak. Today that artist is one of my favorites - Neko Case.
Released in March 2009, Middle Cyclone is the fifth solo studio album from Neko Case and as far as sales and critical claim are concerned, her most successful to date. So to answer the first question posed, yes, it absolutely still sounds as good today as it did the first time I picked it up. Then again her voice is such that she could record an album of her just reading the phone book or a thesaurus and I would glad lay cash down for it. If I had made a "best of" list in 2009 this album would have been on it and to be honest it would have been on my best of lists for 2010 and 2011 if that's when its release date had been.
I can remember seeing review after review about this album and reading about how this was her most "mature" release to date. Personally I hate that term when describing music because it insinuates that everything that came before was 'immature'. Really if these particular music journalists had said that this album was her most "polished" album or that the production level was as such not yet seen on a Neko Case album or that this was her most "indie rock centric" album they would have been spot on. Almost completely gone on this album are any traces of the alt-country sounds that first made me fall in love with her music (the lone exception possibly being the song "The Pharaohs"). This is an indie rock album through and through (which is possibly why it sold so well and got such critical acclaim). As a reference point, this album is her most closely related album sonically to her work with The New Pornographers. But it's still a Neko Case album, which includes exceptional songwriting and poignant and often biting lyrics. It's also a natural progression from where she was heading on previous releases which means that fans of the older material will easily find things to love about this album. In the end it's a very powerful and personal album and absolutely worth whatever time you can devote to digesting it.