I’d heard that Chan Marshall, otherwise known as Cat Power, was making her new album and played a few tracks for a friend. The friend told her it sounded like every other Cat Power record and that she needed to challenge herself to make something different. If that’s true, I’d like to kiss her friend because Sun is a fantastic record. Layered with electronic beats, vocal effects, and synthesizers (as well as Marshal’s usual great lyrics and haunting voice), Sun is a wonderful new direction for one of the best singer-songwriters in the game.
“Cherokee,” the album’s opener, starts with themes of love, altered expectations, and death (“Marry me to the sky, bury me upside-down.”). The title track will be played across college rock stations and in fetish clubs (in remixes, I’m sure) across the nation. It’s a stunning cut and easily one of my favorite songs of 2012. It’s as powerful as its namesake and you won’t be able to get it out of your head. “Ruin” has some snappy guitar to go with the snappy electronic drums. It sounds like the Scissor Sisters were her studio band on it (They weren’t. Marshall played everything herself, but that would’ve been way cool.). “3, 6, 9” could be a song about kinky sex, addiction, or addiction to kinky sex. It’s good anyway you slice it.
“Always on My Own” is probably the track that sounds most like a “traditional” Cat Power record. It’s heavy on acoustic guitar, simple drums, and soulful singing. “Human Being” is one of the coolest pep talks I’ve heard. It sounds like a smoky blues song, but the lyrics are actually uplifting. “Manhattan” snaps, crackles, and pops with great electro beats and lovely vocals by Marshall. You’ll be putting it on mix tapes all year long. “Silent Machine” is anything but silent. It has the most vocal effects on the record and some of the loudest guitar and drums.
“Nothin’ but Love” (which is what I have for this record) is nearly eleven minutes long, and it’s nothing but bliss. Spaced out synths, mantra-like piano chords, and Marshall’s beautiful lyrics (backed by Iggy Pop!) take you on a lovely psychedelic trip that has the end journey of a beautiful life (“It’s up to you to be a superhero, it’s up to you be like nobody”). I love neo-psychedelia and this may be my new favorite track in the genre…and no one expected such a song from Cat Power.
The album ends with “Peace and Love” which, according to Cat Power and Nina Simone (from whom Marshall took the line), “is a famous generation.” It’s a rocker with swaggering guitar and lyrics to match as Marshall tells off her critics and proclaims, “I’m a lover, but I’m in it to win.”
Ms. Marshall, you have. Thank you for sharing your victory with us.
By Nik Havert
Nik Havert is a writer, DJ, harmonica player, martial arts instructor, comic book publisher, crime fighter,music lover, cult movie enthusiast, and modern day Renaissance man. He hopes to shark cage dive sometime in the next few years and enjoys travel and good natural root beer.
I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” ~ Maya Angelou
“Woman is the Wonder of the World.” ~ Billy Joe Shaver