Cat Power’s Pop Transformation
August 30, 2012
More has changed for Chan Marshall in the past few years than just hair, but her new super short locks could easily be considered the portent of an artist transformed. The solo musician behind Cat Power is on the verge of releasing her ninth studio record and first of original material since 2006’s The Greatest. The new album, Sun, marks a distinct change from Cat Power’s traditionally sparse, deeply moody tracks. Sun, as the title suggests, harkens in a new breed of Cat Power, light, buoyant, optimistic, and driven by bass-heavy dance beats. Considering the challenges Marshall has faced since the release of The Greatest, this album could have easily, and justifiably, been full of the melancholy, heartbreaking ballads she excels at. Marshall not only went through bankruptcy and a psychotic breakdown due to stress during the release of The Greatest, forcing her into hospitalization, but earlier this summer she also broke up with her longtime boyfriend, Giovanni Ribisi, who then married British supermodel Agyness Deyn two months later.
This album was a deeply personal endeavor for Marshall, who produced, sang and played all of the instruments on every track. At first listen, Sun will be a jarring surprise to longtime fans of Cat Power, and through the first couple of tracks it can feel as though she’s not being true to herself or her aesthetic. But as the album progresses, Marshall slowly settles more and more into her new sound. It quickly becomes clear how much she has grown up and expanded as an artist, her re-imagined sound seems to be a reflection of all the ways she has rediscovered who she truly is as an adult woman. Marshall has dealt with hard times and intense criticism for her “unstable” live performances, but through all of it she has managed to craft a highly respectable, two-decade spanning career. Cat Power is at her best on Sun when she manages to straddle the line between her newer, more pop sound and the soulful vocals she’s famous for, making tacks like “Human Being,” “Manhattan,” and “Nothing But Time” featuring Iggy Pop really stand out. Although Cat Power groupies may be disappointed by Chan Marshall’s sudden glass-half-full attitude, Sun marks the reemergence of an artist who has struggled, fought, and overcome.
To preview the album in its entirety, head over to NPR.