#MusicReview is back bitches! And this week I finally listened to Cat Power, someone that I had heard a lot about but whose music I had never actually listened to. You see, Cat Power is a well-respected female indie artist, very much in the vein of Imogen Heap or Fiona Apple. Her music, or so I had been told, resonates with people. Her lyrics are supposedly introspective and her music is original, refreshing and, according to one particularly fervent fan, life changing. Needless to say, I had high hopes going into this record. Un-needless to say is that this is a great album.
At her best, Cat Power produces music that is as challenging as it is rewarding. Her lyrics are sharp, pointed and refined. Her delivery is interesting, and not in a this-is-my-interesting-ie-fat-friend. On the contrary, her delivery is pleasant and while her influences are felt strongly throughout this record, she does something all her own. The album ebbs and flows in a completely intuitive way, something that most artists seem to struggle with in this modern, single-driven musical world that we live in.
At her lowest, however, Cat Power is still someone that you can just sit back, crack a beer to and groove. When you can’t understand her lyrics (frequently) you can still appreciate her vocal bag of tricks. The ability of a singer to be equally listenable when you can understand and latch onto lyrics as well as when you can’t, breaks down to artistic ability. Fortunately for us, Cat Power has more artistic ability in her little finger than most singers do in their entire forearm.
The production value of this album is also a pleasant surprise. The Cat Power that I had heard of played music that was stripped down and raw. And while that raw energy and emotion still courses throughout the body of this album, the record itself is polished. From the lush back up vocals to the rich environments created by the music, everything about this record feels intentional, methodical and ends up being very impressive.
With all of that said, the highest points of this record are when Ms. Power sheds her recorded cocoon and allows her voice to shine in an unaffected and honest way. The song “Always on My Own” is a great example of this. In spite of its rich but sparse musical accompaniment, Power’s voice is able to rise above the steam of its background and fall softly onto your ears in a sweetly unobtrusive way.
There is nothing on this album that is too showy and this album will never demand your attention. There are other albums out right now that will shout, “hey, look what I can do!” and if you look don’t feel bad because, after all, they are fucking shouting. However, this album will take whatever attention you are willing to shower it with and reward you with a musical experience that very few other albums can give you. “Sun” ends up being as challenging as anything released this year while rewarding trained ears as well as the uninitiated. The album mixes the primal with the reformed, the bitter with the sweet and the high-concept with the accessible.
Jason R. Noble
Stars: 3 1/2 – This album is close to 3 stars but there are just enough beautiful moments here to give it that important 1/2 star bump. Cat Power knows what she’s fucking doing and the way that she can hang on a note for just long enough might be all I need to know to prove it. There are, of course, other aspects of this album that will lead you to the same conclusion but she is really goddamn good at singing.
Track to Dig: Manhattan – This song is so motherfucking cool, that when you’re done listening to it, a cigarette and dry martini just appear in your hand.
Track to Miss: Nothin’ But Time – If you are going to be ballsy enough to put an eleven-minute song on your record, it better be fucking spectacular. Unfortunately, this song just good and kind tends to keep going…and going. And yes, this record is so good that even the track to miss is good.