I have seen Cat Power—Chan Marshall—each and every opportunity I get, and every time, she’s a complete mess. Guitar strings break. She begins songs and stops midstream to start again maybe five to six times. Her voice wobbles and breaks. The natives get restless, and I feel an overwhelming sense of humiliation for her. But, she’s brilliant and when she finally gets it right, she’s a sight to behold, a sound to relish, and a superstar in her own right.
On her new album, “Sun,” Chan incorporates all the bad that she’s encountered and weaves it into dancey songs that can all be singles. “Ruin,” the first actual release, is fun and burrows into your brain with the lyric “Why do we do it?/We’re sitting on a ruin.” Just the way she pronounces certain countries—“Me-he-co (Mexico),” “Cal-cut-ha (Calcutta)”—in the song makes it one to put on repeat. Her voice is unique, and, to me, she’s an artist who I would listen to sing the phone book. The song “Real Life” is a page from my teenage diary—”Real life/is ordinary. Sometimes/you don’t wanna live.” Angst is something Chan does well. But, on this album, you will get the right amount depression with the perfect dose of Zoloft.
The addition of drum machines and a synthesizer lift the music from the mire and make it seem almost light. Chan recorded and played all the instruments herself. Overall, I am a huge fan of her earlier albums, but I’m open to change…and, on this album she does that: changing from a sad sack to a semi-happy soul.
Cautiously groove to: “Manhattan,” “Human Being,” “Cherokee”