Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cat Power - Sun Review

Listening to Sun, I am reminded of a simple fact: whether it be indie guitar pop, folk, soul, electronic music, death metal or any genre of music that comes to mind; if Chan Marshall chooses to pursue it, it will always sound like Cat Power. Every piece of music she has released is united by her voice, a glorious husk with a honeyed sheen, unfathomable power and endless emotion. Sure, she favours the minor keys in her writing but even on the sprightly Latin piano, scratch guitar effused Ruin, she sounds indelibly like no one else recording music today. Born out of the ashes of a messy break up, Sun is a triumph and an easy contender for best album of the year.

The expectations of Sun are high as it's is Marshall's first album of original material since The Greatest and they are met and exceeded. For me, I felt that Cat Power's move from indie darling to soul queen was a fantastic move and those records (The Greatest, Jukebox) reinterpreted soul into something modern but immutably linked and respectful of tradition. Sun abandons this sound for a more eclectic, electronic sound which perfectly bridges the gap between the earlier spare records and the soul sounds of late.

Lyrically, the album is best summed up by the opening four lines of opener Cherokee:

Never knew love like this
The wind, moon, the Earth, the sky (Sky so high)
Never know pain like this
Everything dies (Then die)

The lyrics veer from total melancholy to total ecstasy but while there is an overriding sense of loss that shadows much of the record but it never feels heavy or a bummer, it feels revelatory as if Marshall is fighting it with all her might and scratch sunlight through the black veil of night. There are moments of pure exuberance and power amongst the darker moments.

Always on my own is probably closest to the Moon Pix days but everything moves with that repetitive sway that characterises Marshall's music - repeated melodies and guitar lines that snake into the brain. Marshall has always been an underrated guitar playing who creates hypnotic guitar lines but Sun speaks loudly as an all rounder as she plays all the instruments on the record. There is something of a mad scientist approach with left-of-field sounds which flit seamlessly in and out of songs which can raise an eyebrow until you realise how totally inspired they are.

The songs range from absent space disco of Real Life and Manhattan to the fuzzed out rock of Peace and Love while the title track sounds like latter day Depeche Mode. Peace and Love is my favourite track, a distant cousin of The Greatest's Love and Communication - only angrier but relying on the same underlying urgent repetition. Probably the most talked about song here will be the Velvet Underground crawl on Nothin' but time, a ten minute bass heavy drone with Iggy Pop playing Lou Reed to Marshall's Nico. It feels less like a homage but an embrace of their unhurried space and sorrow, a place that suits Cat Power well. The song is a plea for understanding, forgiveness and rebirth and it is gorgeous.

There are no weak tracks on this album which is immediately accessible and comforting. The music washes over the listener in waves and rewards repeat listens. If Bob Mould's Silver Age wasn't released this week as well, I'd say this would be my favourite record of the year. We'll have to see how that plays out in the next few months but this album reinforces that Marshall to be one of the most captivating and interesting artists making music today.


No comments:

Post a Comment