Cat Power - Sun

Cat Power brightens her sound with syncopated rhythms and a new sense of hope.

Some artists work for many years before they emerge with an album that finally captures their full potential. Chan Marshall, the force behind Cat Power, has released nine albums since 1994, but it has been six years between her 2006 release The Greatest and Sun. During that period the singer filed for bankruptcy, was hospitalized for stress related issues, and continues to suffer with angioedema, a sometimes dangerous swelling of facial skin. (A current inflammation has forced her to cancel her tour.) Already known for her brooding, introspective, down-beat songs, one might think enduring hard times would intensify these tendencies. However, after a close friend challenged her material as too dark and repetitive, Marshall retooled her attitude. The results are reflected in the music.

Sun is injected with light (even if it is the light at the end of the tunnel), beats, and a sense of hopefulness despite the fact that many of the songs expose the sense of loss following romantic heartache. The opening track “Cherokee” lyrically delves into this territory but with an invigorated musical urgency. On the title track Marshall’s vocals moves shark-like through swirling programmed syncopation, electronic keyboards and muted guitar. “Ruin” is highlighted by piano riff, crafty guitar points and Marshall’s punctuated vocals. She’s auto-tuned her vocals for the catchy nursery rhyming track “3-6-9.” As you dive deeper into the album the more clear it is that Marshall has challenged herself to create a sound that supersedes her past releases. There is more energy, more novel ideas, and a broader approach to lyrics that encompasses a more universal theme than her past insular songs.

Throughout the album the production is pristine. Despite being densely multilayered each element is distinct. What is most impressive is that this is Marshall’s project as she self-produces and plays all instruments. You may note that there are backing vocals on “Nothin’ But Time.” Listen closely enough and you may figure out that it is Iggy Pop who joins her on the track.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)