Music Suggestions

Cat Power’s Bright Side : The New Yorker

Sun finds Marshall returning to an approach she’s successfully used before—reduction and focus.

Cat Power is usually interesting, I like this album so far, on first listen.

Sasha Frere-Jones writes:

“Sun” finds Marshall returning to an approach she’s successfully used before—reduction and focus. In the past few years, especially in live performances, she has sung in a loose, dynamic way over the work of accomplished professionals. These shows have been compelling but sprawling. “Sun,” by contrast, is basic and compressed; it relies on repetition rather than risk the peaks and valleys that a clutch of virtuosic musicians make possible.

Though not professionally trained in any particular instrument, Marshall played and sang everything on the album, except for a few moments, in one song, of guitar and drumming, provided by Judah Bauer and Jim White, and a noticeable vocal cameo by Iggy Pop. These days, music that is recorded by just one person often takes on the aesthetic of the loop—computer technology makes it easy to set up a repetitive phrase and then play along to it. Creating an unpredictable feel can be tricky when the solid next step has already been constructed, and the album occasionally reflects this problem. Yet this style of working is conducive to making propulsive beats, and much of the album could be danced to.

Marshall’s chosen instrumentation for “Sun” is roughly that of a traditional live rock band, with drums and piano at the forefront, and guitars and synthesizers trading off in accompaniment. Unlike her last few albums, “Sun” has very few songs that use isolated vocal performances. Marshall’s voice, which is her strongest asset, is heard mostly in multitracked harmony with itself, small ensembles that make the songs more general than intimate. The resulting sound is less of a person conveying stories or feelings than of a volunteer choir chanting hymns. It turns out that, if you leave Chan Marshall alone with her gear, you get more songs and less Chan Marshall. After being the center of her own work in a fairly traditional way, Marshall has built an album that seeks to catalogue problems and ideas rather than frame her own voice.

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