I’m a huge Cat Power fan, so when I heard she was releasing her ninth studio album I was pretty excited. Sun is not the typical album I expected from singer Chan Marshall a.k.a Cat Power. This album sounds like she decided to shake it up and
bit and pick up the tempo, with synthesizer heavy grooves the album feels it belongs to a new wave band more than Cat Power, but that’s not a bad thing.
When I first listened to this album, my initial thought was “this sounds a break-up album, but with dance music.” After a little digging, I discovered that the album was written after a break-up with actor Giovanni Ribisi. Well, this angle seems to work wonders for Taylor Swift, so will it work for Cat Power? Absolutely.
The first track, “Cherokee,” is a moody, but upbeat look into how she’s dealing (or dealt) with the end of her relationship. “Never knew love like this The sun, the sea and I, Never knew pain, never knew shame, Now I know why.” To me, it’s about being on top of the world, feeling like no one can touch you (because you’re so in love) then the harsh reality of falling back to Earth. It’s not pretty, but the song itself is. For a song on such a painful topic, she sounds almost blissful as she purrs her way through it. What starts off as a quiet and mid-tempo song gradually picks up to a quicker tempo. You could almost dance to this break-up by the end.
She continues her break up lament with “Manhattan.” The pianos in the beginning, and even Power’s voice, are reminiscent of Florence and the Machine, until she really starts getting into it. Once again, the listener is deceived of the topic with the upbeat temp and the electronic drumbeat booming in the background. With lyrics like, “You got your secret on And you say you got nothing to hide You, you, you and your secret life,” and “It’s not me you know, it’s the useful woman by your side” gives the idea, at least it did to me, that perhaps someone was not so faithful in the relationship. I’ve heard a lot of songs about relationships ending and cheating, and none of them sound as elegant and captivating as “Manhattan.”
“Nothin’ but Time” is the longest song on the album, coming in at 10:55, but is so cool that you never want it to end. She’s mixed piano with new wave and made a beautiful piece of music. It combines the moody, ambient classic sound that Cat Power fans have come to know and love and mixes it with electronic, new wave sounds. She even throws Iggy Pop into the mix. It’s hard to describe the perfection that is the blending of their voices. It’s a duo that I never pictured together, but now that I’ve heard it, I wish it were in more than one song.
Often when an artist strays away from a genre of music that has previously brought them success, it does not always go so well. While Cat Power has kept some of the same elements that have served her so well throughout her career, she experiments with an electronic sound on this album, and does it well. In this case, a break-up has given Marshall a new outlook on life, and her music.