Cat Power

Sun

Matador

Sep 05, 2012 Issue #42 - The Protest Issue Bookmark and Share


Chan Marshall's ninth album has arrived after a long, six-year incubation process. The album was announced in a 2006 New York Times profile following the release of The Greatest, and the piece even went on to state that all of the songs for the album had already been written by then. It's unlikely the Sun record we have finally received in 2012 is the same one she envisioned way back then, but sometimes life is full of distractions, and it's hard to fault her reasons for more than half a decade's dearth of original material. Marshall kept busy recording coversincluding the 2008 covers LP Jukeboxand appearing on albums by other artists. She also took time away to focus on her personal life; she's cited the end of a long-term relationship as being the thing that finally spurred her on to finish the record.

If Sun's 11 tracks meander and sometimes seem unfocused, the flipside is that they never feel forced. Each song is multi-layered and painstakingly composed, suggesting she'd used some of that extended gestation time to mull over every little detail. Marshall plays all of the instruments here herself, from the "Sinnerman"-esque piano lead of "Ruin" that runs nine loops deep, to the frantically-plucked guitar in "Human Being." It's also her most electronic-sounding record. Synthesizers, drum machines, and vocal effects feature prominently in many of the mixes; tracks such as "Sun" and "Real Life" are almost entirely digital forays.

This colder-feeling production loses the immediacy that marked previous Cat Power albums; only the disc's final tracks-particularly the 11-minute "Nothin' But Time," where she duets with Iggy Pop, and the dirty blues-inflected closer "Peace and Love"really begin to feel intimate. Lacking that up-close-and-personal aesthetic, Sun isn't likely to land among the singer/songwriter's best records. It's clear, however, that her heart went into it, and after this much time has passed we should be happy enough just to have her writing songs again. (www.catpowermusic.com)

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