Tunes like acoustic-guitar-filagreed "Vengeance Is Sleeping" and the loaded fragment "The Next Time You Say Forever" work off the imaginative leaps sprinkled within her stories: "It's a dirty fallow feeling," she wails in the latter, "to be the dangling ceiling, from when the roof came crashing down. Peeling in the heat. Vanish in the rain." All delivered with her now-trademark wedding of Leonard Bernstein lyrical drama and Loretta Lynn working-class grit.
Much has been said of Case embracing her own force of nature rep with Middle Cyclone literally as with "This Tornado Loves You" and a cover of Sparks' "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth." But then we gathered as much after The Tigers Have Spoken (Anti-, 2004). Moreover Case and company's energy seems to flag with well-meaning but lackluster numbers like "Prison Girls," at which point I found myself wondering when this cyclone would come crashing to an end. Case's musical palette may be expanding, but can she keep her wits and her wisdom concerning country/pop concision about her in the tempest of her imagination? "I do my best," she sings on "I'm an Animal," "but I made a mistake." All is forgiven there's much here to chew on but one hopes Case braves life without her protective critter armour next time around.
With Jason Lytle
June 9, 8 p.m., $30-$33
982 Market, SF
Jump in: oh, the places the Olympia, Wash., easy-listening groove lovers will go. With Half Handed Cloud and Little Wings. Wed/11, 9 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com
The ethereal Merge indie-ists attempt to move us with their minds again, soon after their Noise Pop turn. With Say Hi..., Built for the Sea, and Anderson. Thurs/12, 8:30 p.m., $12. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com
Keep It Hid (Nonesuch)? The Black Key can do that, but he can't keep his deep-fried, 'verb-heavy electric blues vibe under wraps for long. With Hacienda and Those Darlins. Fri/13, 9 p.m., $20. Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF. www.bimbos365club.com
BAY AREA GIRL'S ROCK CAMP AFTER-SCHOOL PROGRAM
Rockin' ladies close out their first show with a screening of Girls Rock! the Movie. Sat/14, 1:30 p.m., $8. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com