Improbably, Chan Marshall — who information as Cat Power, who was as soon as the face of Chanel, who has by no means made a foul album — remains to be one thing of a cult determine. It’s tempting to say she shouldn’t be: How can somebody with that many nice songs not already be canonized into the pantheon of music’s greats? Shouldn’t we be speaking about her again catalogue continuously from each potential angle? Shouldn’t Rolling Stone produce a type of commemorative specials which you can all the time discover on the airport bookstore? Maybe not fairly but. She’s canonized inside the musical world she operates in, however has but to be acknowledged universally. Marshall’s music will someday be spoken about the best way we speak about Bob Dylan’s music, or Neil Young’s music, however till then, she exists within the candy spot between cult favourite and broadly accepted genius.
The nice attraction of the Cat Power again catalogue is that Marshall is aggressively unflinching. Willing to stare at her demons, progress, develop, regress, and create music that tackles the complexities of human life, it doesn’t matter what which may imply, or who she may alienate. Implicit in each Cat Power album is the promise of energy and reckoning — private or in any other case. She makes music for individuals who have lived life, who’re worn down, or for many who preserve greedy at one thing that’s without end simply out of attain — in different phrases, just about all of us.
In an interview across the launch of Sun, her final album earlier than at this time’s Wanderer, Marshall described a tumultuous interval in her life. After the discharge of 1996’s What Would the Community Think she moved to South Carolina, and her expertise would find yourself because the genesis for 1998’s all-time nice Moon Pix: “And one evening, I don’t even know what the fuck occurred, however hell got here to get me once more. It was in a dream. I wrote these songs [that turned Moon Pix] that evening, ready for the solar to rise, as a result of my home was surrounded by 150 trillion spirits urgent towards my glass, attempting to get in. It was fucked up and actually horrifying. The songs had been similar to proof.”
You can hear it within the music on Moon Pix. Marshall is stressed, uneasy, current in a dream state. The complete album appears like impending doom. It’s lovely. Marshall would proceed making music on this vein — at instances she has sounded extra snug, even content material along with her lot in life — however you all the time acquired a way that she was making songs as a manner of attending to the core of human flaw. Not a lot to repair or eradicate it from herself, however to know it.
There isn’t any unhealthy place to begin with Cat Power. Everyone has their favourite Cat Power album, and nobody is incorrect about their alternative. The songs under are simply ten highlights (one from every studio album, offered in chronological order) from a profession that has tons of (and counting!). This is pretty much as good a spot to begin as any.
“Headlights” Dear Sir
Though Dear Sir is the primary Cat Power album, it doesn’t actually sound prefer it, particularly on the album nearer “Headlights,” which is definitely a rerecording of a pre–Cat Power Marshall jam. It is smart that this one was carried over — you’ll catch a whiff of Sonic Youth right here (SY drummer Steve Shelley was a frequent collaborator of Marshall’s and performs drums on this complete document), however the showcase is Marshall’s voice, which oscillates between dead-eyed exhaustion and on the finish a sort of frantic worry that provides method to acceptance within the house of some traces.
“Ice Water” Myra Lee
So a lot of Dear Sir is cloaked in distortion that it feels surprising to take heed to “Ice Water,” one of many requirements from Marshall’s missed, however very achieved second album, Myra Lee. Notably, “Ice Water” sounds heat, regardless of its lyrical content material (“I’ll swim / and I’ll drink myself to dying”), and its this push and pull that might inform a lot of Marshall’s music within the years to come back.
“Nude As the News” What Would the Community Think?
It isn’t a surprise that “Nude As the News” was a single — full with a music video — as a result of the tune is nice. It’s one of many Cat Power songs you may maintain as much as somebody unfamiliar to clarify her attraction: It’s propulsive, eerie, and it rolls like a protracted snarl. It can also be about an abortion Marshall had when she was 20, however understanding that isn’t remotely important to understanding the facility of the tune.
“Say” Moon Pix
I briefly thought of breaking the principles of this listing, and simply recommending that you simply take heed to Moon Pix in its entirety. It is a strong doc of uneasiness and unhappiness and the spirits that hang-out us when the unfinished enterprise of life piles up. Buoyed by Dirty Three members Mick Turner and Jim White (who is without doubt one of the all-time nice drummers alive at this time), Moon Pix sounds directly just like the logical subsequent step from What Would the Community Think? and an album that stands completely by itself. “Say” options these indelible lyrics: “What defeats folks is a double confession,” which feels prefer it’s skirting the sting of nonsense. Marshall understands this, and goes on to outline it: “One time they may confess one factor and the subsequent they may confess … one thing else.” Behind her, thunder rolls and cracks. When the tune ends, she sings “study to say the identical factor … allow us to maintain quick to saying the identical factor.” It begins to really feel like “Say” is about uneasy compromise, however we will by no means be fairly positive.
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” The Covers Record
Marshall has a protracted historical past of masking songs. They pop up not less than as soon as on most of her albums, and eight years after the discharge of The Covers Record, she’d return to the nicely for Jukebox. Generally, covers are a tough prospect for any artist. How can you set your individual stamp on one in a manner that doesn’t simply immediate the listener to show it off halfway via to allow them to revisit the unique? Marshall’s technique is to subsume your complete historical past of music and spit every monitor again out as a reverent, however nonetheless unique tackle a longtime traditional. It’s why she will be able to nail a frightening cowl like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” She’s so achieved that her model may as nicely be its personal tune. Is it higher than the unique? I don’t even know methods to reply that, however I do know that I take heed to Marshall’s model extra usually.
“Werewolf” You Are Free
You Are Free might be the second most accessible non-covers album in your complete Cat Power catalogue (the primary is The Greatest — we’ll come to that in a minute); as such, it’s one thing of a goodbye to the pressure of brittle people that Marshall was working with for the primary half of her profession. “Werewolf,” one in every of many standouts, is lush, orchestral, and subdued. There’s no anger there, however there doesn’t must be. Marshall’s early information hit their highest highs when her voice strained and have become skinny and annoyed. The calm on “Werewolf” is filled with quiet energy.
“Love & Communication” The Greatest
Much of Marshall’s music could be described by way of temperature: She could be chilly and she will be able to make icy songs, or she will be able to go for heat, her voice a rasp that lands closely, prefer it’s the anchor for each little bit of instrumentation round it. The Greatest, recorded with The Memphis Rhythm Band, is her precise warmest album. It’s additionally her most grownup. Previous Cat Power albums sounded very of a second, like she was singing her manner via ache or happiness or frustration, and The Greatest is what occurs when she’s come out the aspect. Much of the album is completely fitted to late, humid evenings (“Lived in Bars,” the title monitor, “The Moon”), nevertheless it’s the nearer that I all the time come again to. After a complete album of acceptance, Marshall brings within the restlessness that characterised what got here earlier than. She sings, “Can you inform me that there’s one thing higher? Because you already know there all the time is,” her voice cracking on the “all the time is,” like she’s undecided. Then she repeats it once more extra forcefully.
“Don’t Explain” Jukebox
If it was dangerous for Marshall to cowl “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” I can not think about the way it will need to have felt to document a take of Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain,” which was written after Holiday discovered lipstick on her husband’s collar. Rather than do a straight take of the unique (when has Marshall ever finished that anyway?), she inhabits the thoughts of Holiday, or perhaps attracts on her personal experiences. Whatever the case, “Don’t Explain” is essentially the most highly effective second on a strong covers album.
Recorded principally alone, Sun’s skeleton is constructed from drum machines, nevertheless it loses not one of the relatability and humanness of Marshall’s earlier information. “Manhattan,” one in every of many standouts, is nice if it comes on the proper time in your life. It’s about loving the world you’ve constructed for your self for thus lengthy, and the way, finally, inevitably you go searching and understand that the buddies you used to know are gone and the place you used to acknowledge has turn out to be one thing else completely.
It’s price saying up entrance: Yes, Lana Del Rey is featured on “Woman.” The pair toured collectively and bonded over lengthy talks about life. It is, upon listening to the tune, an apparent collaboration, which is why it’s so nice. The two artists each have a capability to write down songs which might be sensible, however not impassive. Together, they do precisely that. It’d be straightforward to say that this can be a passing of the torch of types, nevertheless it couldn’t be. Marshall nonetheless has a lot music left to present.