Cat Power – Sun

Over the past few years, alternative folk songstress Chan Marshall, better known under her project name ‘Cat Power’, has built up a cult following on the indie underground circuit on both sides of the Atlantic. Famous for a minimalist style of acoustic playing and her distinctive husky voice, the development of Cat Power’s music is as interesting as that of Radiohead or even Bob Dylan. Ninth album ‘Sun’ seems to be Cat Power’s ‘Kid A’ in terms of change in artistic direction.

Her last album of fully original material, ‘The Greatest’ was mainly filled with innovative piano-based melodic lines, so on first listen of ‘Sun’ I was surprised to hear Cure-style guitars in front of a Massive Attack inspired drum pattern on the first track, “Cherokee”. The vocal melody is grabbing from the chorus, building up through discreet and vague verse lyrics, pleading ‘bury me, marry me to the sky’. From the start, you can tell that the production is excellent: there’s fantastic sounding alternative drum styles and instruments, with a trademark reverb guitar line echoing throughout.

The second track further enforces Cat Power’s departure from slow folk. The trance-like synth and drum line emphasise the percussive element of this album, and her voice works so well with this style. “3, 6, 9” incorporates auto-tune in the same vain as Bon Iver, with a bluesy vocal line and chorus that dominates the album.

Of course there are still similarities to her previous albums. “Silent Machine” is a Black Keys-style guitar-based song which still incorporates a synthesised section and brilliantly layered vocals. This blues-rock style does appear in many sections of other songs on the album, but there are so many influences shining through it’s difficult to put a finger on what this album was trying to achieve. Whatever it is, it’s very successful.

The biggest surprise of the album is the ten minute “Nothin But Time”, which, after a pleasant five minutes or so of similar-sounding percussive-heavy synthesisers and captivating vocal lines, features Iggy Pop adding a warm gravelly tone a la The Velvet Underground. The song is somewhat tainted by its drawn out length to over ten minutes long; a fade out and then a fade back in again is annoying to listen to, especially over a two-chord structure.

The album is rounded off well with the big beefy finisher “Peace and Love”, which defines the entire album in three and a half minutes. With synth overlaying loud drums, bluesy guitar riffs and abstract but brilliant lyrics, this song ends a thoroughly decent record, which has a few flaws that are by far outweighed by the album’s finer points.