A Vivoscene Feature Review by Brian Miller
Vivoscene rating 9.5
Cat Power‘s new album, SUN, is her first full-length studio recording of new material in six years and it’s nothing less than shocking. The former Mistress of Minimalist Melancholy serves up a self-produced collection of shiny, optimistic and soulful tunes that reflect her own triumph over the dark mix of alcohol, drugs and failed relationships that have characterized her work over the past couple of decades. Where’s the heartbreak and desire we grew to love, dread and regard with sympathy? For thousands of her fans it seemed that Charlynn Marie Marshall (her birth name) was there to take on the burden of their own challenges, making their fandom far more personal than most. They’ve depended upon her despair to get through their own. And now she’s given up all of that. Maybe it comes from turning 40. Or the cycle of despair and introspection has played itself out. Someone once said that the second half of life is often a reversal of the first and with Cat Power, that observation appears prescient. As if the new record isn’t enough of a surprise, her frequently questionable stage performances (scattered and tortured are words that come to mind) have revealed a newfound confidence and vitality. And all of this has transpired in the early days after a breakup with her long-time boyfriend, actor Giovanni Ribisi. Must have something to with her new look, as she has also shorn her tresses, as you can see from the pic above.
You can stream the entire album SUN here:
The album is a stunner. She’s always had a gorgeous voice, and in this new record we hear it as never before, with added reverb in much of the mix, some great guitar work, a welcome foundation of very strong (and non-processed) drumming, as well as a textural infusion of both electronica and dance rhythms. The song constructions are somewhat more conventional than we’ve experienced from Cat Power in the past, but that only adds to the many attractions of this record. Key tracks: the opener “Cherokee”, which sets an uplifting tone for the balance of the record, and the title track “Sun”, somewhat brooding in its atmospherics, but with a brilliant vocal and lyrical counterpoint. That’s followed by “Ruin”, the most hook-laden track of the record. Cat Power has a hit single here, no doubt.
And then there’s the eleven-minute centrepiece, “Nothin’ But Time”, a full-length working out of her reflections on life, and the onus on the individual to make one’s own way without excuses. It’s anthemic in impact, and a powerful reminder of just how effective voice, piano, guitar and drums can be in affecting the human spirit. As for the closer “Peace and Love”, it’s a powerhouse track, completely belying its title, with a tremendous beat and a hypnotic rhythm.
One of our favourite records of this year or any other. And the packaging of the vinyl version? – dropdead elegant, as you’ll see from the pic below.