I won’t lie and start this review by going on some eloquent soliloquy about how I’ve been deeply influenced by the three women who make up case/lang/veirs. I haven’t. Like many 20-somethings, I was too young to have been in the sweet spot for being a huge k.d. lang fan, even if I do remember hearing “Constant Craving” on the radio. Laura Veirs has always been on my periphery, a somewhat strange, beautiful folk songstress that many of my coffeehouse-going, poetry-reading friends loved. Neko Case, on the other hand, has been a more constant presence in my musical life, mostly due to her role in the Canadian rock group The New Pornographers, where I first heard her stunning voice. Oh, and there was that time she was on Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
Despite my lack of deep familiarity with their separate catalogues, I know enough to recognize that they’re three distinct voices who have worked hard to establish themselves in the North American singer-songwriter canon — Lang with her soulful vocals and emotionally honest lyrics, Veirs with her neo-folk sounds that range from sweet to bitingly sharp and Case with her alt-country siren songs and inimitable voice. What I do know is that the three artists blend stunningly and seamlessly together on their self-titled debut, case/lang/veirs.
The first three lines on the opening track “Atomic Number” instantly address their separate perceived identities — k.d., the wise one, Laura, the sweet one and Neko, the defiant one. And just as quickly, the next verse finds them uniting in a simply gorgeous, three-part harmony. It’s a perfect introduction to them as a trio, setting the tone for a beautiful album.
Even though the album showcases how well the three artfully blend their voices and styles together, though, each singer gets their time to shine. “Blue Fires” solidified my newfound love and appreciation for Lang’s vocal powers. It’s difficult not to be deeply moved by her lush, soulful voice. Listening to her repeat, “why do we fight,” on the track of the same name resonated with me on multiple levels. Though the lyrics seem to focus on a relationship, it ends feeling like a meditation on modern society.
From Lang’s quieter, emotional meditations to Veirs’ quirkier folk explorations, like “Greens of June,” a song that edges a line somewhere between traditional folk and the avant-garde folk of Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom, none of the tracks feel like a jarring change even though they hold their own distinct styles. They’re linked together by flawless backup vocals and harmonies.
Even though Case’s voice tends to rise above the fold for me — its hard to compare to the power and timbre of her distinctive croon on songs like “Behind the Armory” — I found myself surprised by how hard it was to choose a favorite track or vocal lead each time I revisited the album.
After enveloping myself in the work of three talented, accomplished women, I rediscovered my appreciation for the quiet power of a great folk song and awakened a nostalgia for ’90s and early-2000s singer-songwriters that I didn’t know I possessed. So, now I just want to know one thing: When are we going to bring Lilith Fair back? We could only be so lucky to have more instances of female artists coming together to showcase their talents, perspectives and, of course, voices.