I generally like The New Pornographers pretty alright. I generally like Neko Case pretty alright. When Neko Case steps out of the backing-vocal spot with the Pornos, though, I really like the confluence of those talents much more than on their own. Like, I have an extra-special play list made up in iTunes (the only time I've bothered with that feature) just to separate the songs in which Case takes over lead vocal duties.
"All For Swinging You Around," off Electric Version, is on that list. Even if it's not the best Neko-led Pornos song, I'd take it over most of the Dan Bejar burst of weirdness and a good half of Carl Newman's odes to Beach Boys-like melodies and shimmering indie-rock guitars. Coming off the band's second album, it doesn't quite have the polished touch of its latter work, but all the elements are there: Case's vocal soars and swoops among intricately carved guitar, bass and keyboard melodies. Three-part harmonies bolster everything. Even in 2003, it was pretty clear the Pornographers were shooting for (and coming dangerously close to) pure-pop perfection rather than indie-rock fads.
Sadly, at least for me, the number of tracks like "All for Swinging You Around" that feature Case at lead vocals are a slim minority of each of The Pornographers' albums. Maybe if the band stays productive in another decade or so, I'll be able to expand my Neko-led play list to a double CD's length. For now, I'll just fill it in with some of her alt-country tracks. They're nice, but somehow, just not the same.