Cat Power - Sun

Life affirming in every way.

Label: Matador

Rating: 8

It seems there’s always a back-story with Chan Marshall. ‘Sun’ is three years in the making yet was finished only when she split with long-time boyfriend Giovanni Ribisi, cut off her hair and got on a plane to France.

In the six years since ‘The Greatest’, Cat Power has also faced bankruptcy and these tribulations loom over the record – yet it’s also defiantly hopeful. Indeed she’s called this album a ‘rebirth’. And from the first line of Cherokee, ‘I never knew love like this,’ it’s clear that Chan is worn out and in tatters but still with the belief to carry on.

There’s also room for experimentation. The Latino-tipped first single ‘Ruin’ shows a new electronic direction while ‘Manhattan’ proves all you need to make magic is a drum machine and a piano. There are other touches of experimentation sprinkled throughout (‘Real Life’ has a pulsing electronic current underneath) but it’s a record that, for the most part, is defined by her smoky vocals which are able to convey so much emotional resonance.

Marshall performed and produced the album herself and it certainly feels like she’s in control. Even the rawest track, ‘Always On My Own’, features a positive ‘I want to live my way of living.’ The crunchy guitars on ‘Peace And Love’ sonically reaffirm this self-belief. So though this may be a record that’s steeped in heartbreak, it’s the overcoming it that sees this album through.

It’s ‘Nothin But Time’ which is the stand out and captures the beating heart at the centre of the record. It’s 10 minutes of arms aloft celebratory, sparkling rolling piano and an optimistic look to the future. ‘You know what you’ve got to do, you ain’t got nothin’ but time.’ There are shouts of ‘They wanna live’ in the background before Iggy Pop joins in. ‘The world is just beginning,’ they sing. The fact that she can make you believe it makes this the best thing she’s ever done.

‘Sun’ is a record that shows the evolution of Cat Power. She always gives everything of herself, laying herself bare before her audience, so we get the brittle mixed with the triumphant. It makes for a something that never less than intriguing, and more than often, grabs you by the heartstrings and pulls you in.