By Joe Heim
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 5, 2006

During a career that now spans more than a decade, Neko Case has made music described as everything from punk, country and alt-country to indie rock and even torch. Somehow though, none of the labels quite fit. The singer and songwriter, whose fifth album, "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood" (Anti-, $16.98) will be released on Tuesday, isn't confined by convention. With a voice that ranges from a sweet-nothing whisper to a violent wind shear, she creates songs so moody and driven they seem to exist as life forces all their own. We reached her last week by phone in Tucson, where she was preparing for her upcoming tour that brings her to the 9:30 club on April 9.

You were born in Alexandria. Does this area still hold any special place in your heart?

Well, I like to play there. I played in Arlington many, many times at Iota and I really love it. My first memories are from [that area], but I was a really little kid.

So you're not expecting Alexandria to give you a key to the city or name a street for you?

Well, I'm not really quite famous enough, and I haven't cured cancer, so probably not.

I don't know, I think they probably should. Anyway, the new CD comes out on March 7. Do you get nervous about how your albums will be received ?

Yeah, I do. There's that weird in-between waiting space, where you're like, "Okay, it's gonna come out, now here come the reviews. Is anyone going to understand what I was trying to say?" It doesn't seem all that important, but you know, I went to art school. I know what it means to want your intent to be realized by your vague work. [Laughs.]

It's funny you say "vague" because every song on the new CD feels like it could mean a half-dozen different things. Do you have one idea for what each song is about ?

Well, I'm sure I have one idea, but not all of the songs are really about me. Obviously they have my experiences in them, but they're also inspired by fictional characters, literary characters, people who don't exist. They're really all over the map. But I don't want people to feel alienated by them. I want people to go, "Okay, well, I've been given all of these visual clues to the songs, and now I can decide what those visuals mean." I think it makes it more personal for people.

A few of these new songs are described as fables. Can you talk about what they address ?

There's a lot of, you know, not really feeling or knowing where you belong, which is kind of a North American thing.

Why do you say that ?

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