Not that long ago, Neko Case was hypercritical of her songwriting. On The Worse Things Get ..., it's obvious she's moved beyond that into a place of her own, where comparison to other songwriters proves fruitless. It's the first album in four years for the red-headed chanteuse, an interim wherein she lost both parents and a grandparent, then sunk into depression. Some of the songs are an attempt to break free of those demons, and she succeeds grandly with an eye for art rock and a poet's pen. There's also her feminist streak, proving indomitable strength and subtle prose can stand side by side. It's great to hear power-pop influence from her all-star New Pornographers as well, especially on tunes like the gender-shifted "Man" and in the swarming horns of "Bracing for Sunday." Challenging, enigmatic, and melodic don't always go together, but coupled with Case's sleek vocals, they make The Worse Things Get ... a marvel. (7:30pm, Austin Ventures stage)
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