Cat Power – Sun
September 4, 2012, 8:33 pm
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A month ago, I would have described myself as a passive Cat Power fan – I owned a majority of Chan Marshall’s albums, loved a lot of her songs but the looming release of her first album in six years, Sun, was not something as I was actively looking forward to this year. Now? I’m dangerously close to declaring Sun AOTY and have been zealously revisiting old Cat Power albums for the last month. While I’m having genuine emotional epiphanies with old Cat Power songs I have neglected, there is still no precedent in her catalogue for Sun. It is a rebirth for Marshall. The folky miserablist we’ve come to know and love has been replaced by a much more confident and adventurous musician. As you’ve probably read a hundred times by now, Sun is more eclectic, upbeat and powerful than anything Marshall has previously composed. It is also, without a doubt, her best album.  Recorded in France with mixing help from Philippe Zdar (who has worked with Phoenix, Daft Punk, Beastie Boys and Ghostface Killah), the album is bristling with electronic flourishes and beats while still somehow sounding like no one but Cat Power.  “Human Being” could pass for an outtake from Moon Pix were it not for the whirring, luminous synths and Can-like drum fills rippling throughout the song .  The album’s penultimate track, “Nothin But Time” is an 11 minute homage to David Bowie’s “Heroes” featuring a gripping cameo from Marshall’s Miami neighbor Iggy Pop.  Over a reverb-drenched, cascading piano line (which echoes “Heroes” more than a little bit), tremolo’d guitar and buzzing synths, Marshall lays out a self-empowerment anthem to rule them all: “You ain’t got nothin’ but time/It ain’t got nothin on you/Your world is just beginning/It’s up to you to be a superhero/It’s up to you to be like nobody.” Iggy’s entrance into the song – a cloud-busting growl of “YOU WANNA LIVE!” is my single favorite musical moment of the year.  On booming, shit-kicking closer “Peace and Love”, Marshall manages to evoke Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” while spitting lines like “Peace and love is a famous generation/I’m a lover but I’m in it to win it.”  It’s Marshall at her most menacing and it proudly displays her long professed love of hip-hop with nothing more than some grimy, chunky guitar riffs and drums.  It’s very much worth noting that Marshall played every single instrument on Sun herself.  You crazy for this one, Chan.

Sun is out now on Matador.


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