I woke with the hum of Neko Case’s “Magpie to the Morning” in my head. Now after an unfortunate attempt at rebranding The Smiths, we at TAC–and @TAC for that matter–are leery of our tendency to claim for conservatism things that aren’t. Sometimes a poppy isn’t political; sometimes it’s just a poppy.

But I’ll risk sliding into that easy ditch and ruining her indie cred, for running through the lovely Ms. Case’s lyrics is a decidedly traditionalist thread. Not sentimental but awake to the reality that some things worth saving are trampled in the march of progress.

From “Thrice All American”–

I want to tell you about my hometown
It’s a dusty old jewel in the South Puget Sound
Well the factories churn and the timbers all cut down
And life goes by slow in Tacoma

People they laugh when they hear you’re from my town
They say it’s a sour and used up all place
I defended its honor, shrugged off the put downs
You know that you’re poor, from Tacoma

Buildings are empty like ghettos or ghost-towns
It gives me a chill to think what was inside
I can’t seem to fathom the dark of my history
I invented my own in Tacoma…

People who built it they loved it like I do
There was hope in the trainyard of something inspired
Once was I on it, but it’s been painted shut
I found passion for life in Tacoma

Well I don’t make it home much, I sadly neglect you
But that’s how you like it away from the world
God bless California, make way for the Wal-Mart
I hope they don’t find you Tacoma

Then from “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood”: “It’s not for you to know, but for you to weep and wonder / When the death of your civilization precedes you. / Will I ever see you again / Will there be no one above me to put my faith in / I flooded my sleeves as I drove home again.” Her scale is earthy–“I would trade you my empire for ashes”–and her mood often slips into melancholy, as if searching for treasures she knows can’t be retrieved. “A diamond at the bottom of the drain…”

Case’s latest album has critics scoffing at the 32 minutes of frogs croaking outside the barn studio where she records on pianos found free on Craigslist. But when, in our rush between paved boxes, did we last find a frog? Or pause for half an hour plus two? If we did, we might miss something important–or notice that more important things are missing.