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Making a Case for Mystery

The stories in Neko Case's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood are the opposite of tidy narratives: They're fragmentary bits, much like the vignettes of the Oscar-winning film Crash, intended to isolate and freeze moments in time.

One such episode pops up in the second verse of "Hold On, Hold On," a transfixingly slithering rocker Case recorded with The Sadies. It opens with her escape from a wedding reception: "I leave the party at 3 a.m. / alone, thank God." There's relief in her voice -- she's dodged a late-night assignation she would have regretted in the morning. But she didn't leave empty-handed: The bride slipped her a Valium.

This, she confesses, is a companion her character can deal with. In a voice oozing pleasure, she sings, "It's the devil I love." Is she an addict with intimacy issues? Or the "mean girl, or somebody's in-between girl" who's been scarred and therefore keeps her distance? Defying any songwriting codes that dictate a resolution by the last refrain, Case leaves everything hanging. In fact, she doesn't even bother with a big refrain.

Play it a few times, and the ambiguities multiply: There are at least half a dozen other stories lurking between these lines, and every one deserves a look.

Listen to yesterday's "Song of the Day."

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Tom Moon has been writing about pop, rock, jazz, blues, hip-hop and the music of the world since 1983.