Monday, September 3, 2012

Cat Power



Where The Greatest and Jukebox found Chan Marshall singing the blues with a touch of Janis Joplin-like feeling and soul, Sun harks back to You Are Free. And while I would like to say that it’s her best album ever, I really can’t because all of Ms. Marshall’s albums find her at her best, no matter what she was going through at the time. So I will say this album is as good as You Are Free.

You Are Free found Cat emerging from extreme isolation, pain, and trauma. The Greatest and Jukebox found her taking stock of her life, an interlude to get ready to embrace life, love, happiness and freedom. Sun shows how she has embraced everything, loves everything, and has put the past in perspective so she can start anew. With the same steely resolve that got her through everything she has faced. Her idealism intact, even when she was isolated, the same warmth and soul carried her along.

A few songs in particular stand out. “Cherokee,” which opens the album has an intro in her trademark guitar style, with a touch of electronica that rings out and sticks in your head. This song, like “Silent Machine,” deals with a person she has formed an instant attraction to, yet knows she cannot have. But unlike years past, where the feeling and emotion of her pain was all she knew, these two songs put this attraction in its place. She’s known all this before, but this time, she deals with it in a healthy frame of mind, and finds that she can handle it much better.

“Nothing But Time,” like “Peace and Love,” sends a message both political and personal. Embrace the future as best you can, and be idealistic, because it really is all you have. While times are hard now, it won’t always be this way. Things will get better. And if you can’t understand how to be idealistic in hard times, then you need to think some more, or just get out of her face.

You Are Free experimented with rock song structure. On Sun electronica is the way she’s doing it this time, just the way You Are Free played with rock song structure. And these songs, like “Ruin,” move in ways that flow. A driving force every bit as fierce as her lyrics. They also give her words breathing room, an interlocking form that ties everything together seamlessly. And these experiments never waste a note. Everything is exactly in place, marching in lockstep with the lyrics. It’s great, superbly played and produced, and Marshall did everything. She’s a one person band, recorder, producer, but mixed the album with the help of Philippe Zadr.

This is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year, and maybe the best. What I also know is that while I’ve always related to Cat Power, I relate to Sun the most. This isn’t meant to be a pun, but these lyrics and music have power with a capital P. It’s rare for me to hear an album with this, even as I can think of albums with just as many powerful emotions behind them. This album is a masterpiece from top to bottom, and may the sun shine on her and keep her warm, alive, free, happy and content for the rest of her life.

Andrea Weiss

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