Stepping out solo for the first time in six years, Cat Power (Chan Marshall) presents her new album Sun. She has become well known more recently for her covers and collaborative work with artists such as Beck and the Velvet Underground. Renowned for her grungy style and soulful melancholy song writing, it is not unusual for her to experiment with genres from indie rock to blues.
Her choice of lyrics have always been bravely honest and exposing. It’s clear that Chan Marshall is not the kind of girl who gets through a hard time up by kidding herself, claiming unconvincingly “Life is so great right now, honestly I feel fine!” Her past albums are filled with confession and truth. She famously bares her soul and makes it clear how she is really feeling, crying lines like “Oh heaven only knows how much I miss you!” in a Hank William’s cover “Still in Love”. Her work is fuelled with a spectrum of human emotion including anger and fear, although it is often delivered with effervescence.
Marshall’s records often build up gradually and Sun is layered with her signature ghostly guitar playing, catchy baselines and bewitching harmonised vocals. In classic Cat Power style, every track has its own identity. There are interesting latin loops in “Ruin”, “Human Being” is bare and stripped back and “Nothing But Time” featuring Iggy Pop is full and encompassing. This time, she recorded every instrument herself, as well as solely producing and recording the whole album reflecting her new air of independence. Marshall calls her new album “A Rebirth”. “Moon Pix (1998) was about extreme isolation and survival in the crazy struggle. Sun is don’t look back, pick up and go confidently into your own future to personal power and fulfilment.”
Like all of Marshall’s work, Sun is charged with emotion, but the shift from angst and self absorption is very clear. This album is Cat Power’s new message to the world. Throughout, the lyrics recognise the struggles of her past with a new confidence and self assured attitude, “This is the day people like me have been waiting for”. The album has a running theme of positivity and looking forward. “1, 2, 3, 4” has an echo of a raw White Stripes Bside, filled out with her sophisticated and seductive vocals. The playful, fun lyrics “Monkey on your back, you feel just fine” accompany the bouncy piano playing, revealing a new carefree and relaxed state of mind.
Don’t worry- there is still the moody presence of Marshall’s beloved New York which has always been prominent in her work. Her style is still instantly recognisable, her subject matter still serious .But on the whole, Sun does sound, well, sunnier than past projects. You can tell she has been recording this in Malibu and Miami. Perhaps the time spent in Paris gives the album her essential wintry city edge.
Cat Power will be touring the world with a new band beginning in late 2012. Sun is to be released on September 3rd. www.catpowermusic.com
words Hannah Barr