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  • Sun
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on September 4, 2012
SUN is a surprising album. It's not surprisingly good - most of Cat Power's past releases have been solid and noteworthy, so there's no reason to suspect that this particular album would be bad. This album defies expectations from so many fronts: tone, sound, subject matter, and style. If you've come in expecting a Cat Power record, you'll be surprised.

It's been about 6 years since Cat Power's last full-length studio album (of original material), and in the meantime, singer/songwriter Chan Marshall has been through a lot: bankruptcy, rehabilitation, a high-profile break-up, and an awesome haircut (alright, so maybe that's a bit less important than the others). Where THE GREATEST was a understated, bluesy outing, SUN is a record filled with keyboards, synthesizers, and drum machines. SUN might be the biggest change in direction Cat Power has ever recorded, but it is also perhaps the most confident.

The album's first three tracks are among some of the best Cat Power have recorded: "Cherokee" makes no attempt to hide the songwriter's change of direction. Marked with loops and repetition, Marshall's vocals sound especially organic compared to her electronic backdrop. The second track, the selftitled "Sun", is a more aggressive song that finds Cat Power venturing towards dance territory (never thought I would write that sentence). With a distorted guitar providing a dark, brooding chord shift, the song finds an incredible groove that had me reaching for the "repeat" button. The lead single "Ruin", despite its subject matter, is propulsive and even bouncy at times. The song has a melody that stays with the listener long after the playing time is over.

Lyrically, SUN finds Cat Power battling personal demons: "3,6,9" centers around the refrain "3, 6, 9, you drink wine -- monkey on your back, you feel just fine." But it also finds the singer/songwriter inspired with some more life-affirming and inspirational moments: "Nothing but Time" convinces listeners that they too can be "superheros" and to keep their heads up through the rough bits. "Human Being" muses on the individuality and interconnectedness of the human condition. "Ruin" and "Peace and Love" look at corruption and devastation on a more global scale.

The penultimate track "Nothing But Time" is appropriately named, running at just shy of 11 minutes. The track features Iggy Pop providing back-up vocals, an artist who has also seen his share of ups and downs. Unfortunately, his presence feels post-hoc, and often, the song would have benefited from his absence. The last track, and apparently Chan Marshall's favorite, is "Peace and Love," another aggressive track that feels like a culmination of everything on SUN; it's rough, littered with electronics and guitar, and angry with the world (particularly the government). Some of the more rap-inspired (regarding her delivery) come across as a bit awkward, but it's an effective way to close the album.

SUN's biggest problem however has absolutely nothing to do with the songwriting: the mix ranges from decent to not good. Some of the tracks sound overly compressed, and there's too much gain given to the bass drum kick - so much so that it often dominates the music. There are a few moments in the album's back half that sag, especially compared to some of the first tracks here.

Listeners coming into this expecting another YOU ARE FREE or THE GREATEST might find a bit of disappointment. SUN isn't Cat Power's best album, but it's the work of an artist in transition, and it's not without its creative high-points. Essential tracks to sample/download: "Ruin," "Cherokee," and "Sun." It's hard to predict where she will go from here, but after hearing SUN, it's hard not to be interested.

(Additional release information!)
There's a few different ways you can buy this album, and depending on where you go, you may find yourself with different bonus tracks. The iTunes releases comes with two bonus tracks: "Fire" and "Back in the Days (for Christopher Wallace)." The Amazon release only comes with one bonus track: "King Rides By." If you want all three of these tracks, the Japanese import includes them -- otherwise, you'll have to buy them separately.
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on September 4, 2012
One listen to Sun and you'd never know that here is an album that almost didn't get made. "B**chin', complainin,' when some people who ain't got s**t to eat / b**chin,' moanin,' so many people you know they got," goes the lead-in to the chorus on first single "Ruin," and that, of course, sounds just like Chan Marshall, but certainly not in this context. The sound is lush, a Glass-ian keyboard motif circling up around that ricocheting guitar line and a propulsive funk rhythm suitable to get lost in. "Cherokee," too, reveling in some haunting electronic textures and that wonderful "whumpf" sound that accompanies Marshall's pained entreaties to "bury me, marry me to the sky." It's unlike anything Cat Power has put to record in her long career, which has been as bleak as it has been impressive over twenty years. What Sun does resemble, however, should be welcome news to any fans of her work: a new beginning.

Marshall's last album of original material, 2006's The Greatest, was the perfect snapshot, a painstakingly rendered mosaic of `60s soul, gospel, and delta blues, mired in the sepia-toned pop of her Memphis childhood home. "Home" being a relevant term, of course; Marshall's father was a traveling blues musician who moved his daughter all around the South with him. It's something that permeates Marshall's work even here, where traditional sing-a-long "3,6,9" tackles that old blues trope, the monkey on your back, in four quick, painful minutes. That monkey nearly derailed Marshall's career after The Greatest, leading to hospitalization and bankruptcy, and it's that long road back that Sun so succinctly details. Where The Greatest seemed as grief-stricken and world-weary as its influences, Sun is remarkably uptempo, utilizing her new affinity for electronic beats and bubbling atmospherics to great effect. Marshall has said in interviews that recording and producing the album almost entirely by herself helped her get away from the second guessing and encouraged her to try new things, the synthesizer in particular. It fits nicely with Marshall's smoky, soulful voice, and her lyrics, which zip hopefully from the melancholy Native American imagery in opener "Cherokee" to climax "Nothin But Time." Bloated as it is at nearly eleven minutes long and even featuring the patron saint of self-destruction, Iggy Pop, it never fails to soar, taking the record's theme of inner peace to its logical, ringing conclusion.

Perhaps it took a while for Marshall to find herself, but Sun is unerringly confident in its adventuring, even when it stumbles. "Peace and Love," with Marshall in venomous confrontation mode, seems out of place after the triumphant "Nothin But Time," and "Real Life" never develops much of a hook beyond its warped production. Yet Sun remains, beyond a mere reaffirmation of Marshall's renewed mental outlook, a fine endorsement of Cat Power's often overlooked prowess as a songwriter and producer, embellishing the contours of each individual track while strengthening her own voice. "Manhattan" places the onus solely on Marshall's lovely vocals, painting a desolate picture of New York City over a spartan beat and some jittery drum fills, while "Always On My Own's" multi-tracked fog is appropriately eerie. Throughout it all, Marshall seems more intrepid than she has been in over a decade and in turn more inspired, without sacrificing any of that emotional immediacy she has been known for. It's been a long road back, but Sun is a rewarding return to a new Cat Power, one who seems more at ease with her music and herself than ever before. The greatest reward, though, will be seeing where she goes from here.
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on October 8, 2014
CAT POWER IS "THE GREATEST". If you have never listened to Cat Power, take the time to listen to this CD. Her voice is like no other. Sultry, sexy, powerful, inviting. She is one of my favorite all-time female singers. I would love to see her perform live and almost had the opportunity when she came to Austin, Texas in 2013. I missed the show unfortunately, but I will continue to support Cat Power by purchasing her CD's.
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on February 21, 2014
If you are into Cat Power you may be in a sweet minority
because she isn't for everyone thank goodness. But if you
love her work this will be a new leg in your journey as she
moves in a different direction in terms of her musical arrangements
and instrumentation and so forth. Some will hate it and long for the
older stuff. Others who don't like her old stuff will now become Cat Power
fans. When I hear it I cannot help but think that the sun may be shining
a little brighter in the life of Chan Marshall after years of struggle. More
power to you, Chan.
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on May 10, 2013
This album has a few really good songs and a few that just feel like filler to me. The filler songs are sort of slow and plodding or repetitive, like Nothing But Time. I didn't find it as imaginative or consistent as some of her earlier work, but it may be more accessible to a wider audience. Very different than You Are Free, my favorite Cat Power album.
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on May 15, 2014
Catpower is a time tested artist for me. After thinking I was a little burned out on earlier works, I now only find myself savoring her albums more and more over longer and longer time. And, in my opinion, her releases are just getting better and better. This is definitely a full volume submerge yourself in an ocean of sound album.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon September 18, 2012
Chan Marshall (aka, Cat Power) is back and with a bright new album. I've missed her for about the last four years. Originally, I met Chan on the internet and totally by accident. We were both Yahoo Members and she was going by the name of Janet Dammit. Finding it somewhat amusing, I engaged her in email conversation. She said her main concerns were the melting of the polar caps and running low on toilet paper. Funny Lady! She had me amused right from the start. I tried to assure her that the polar caps would hold for a while, but she'd better take care with the toilet paper. First thing you know, we became internet friends and revealed one another's identities. I'd never heard of Chan Marshall or Cat Power, but i recognized some of the impressive names of people she'd recorded with on her records. At that time, I was just beginning to review CDs for Amazon and over the next five years I bought and reviewed a number of Cat Power albums and became a fan. Then she just seemed to disappear. Well, it's good to have her back.

Chan comes back to us with a bright new look. I doubt that I would recognize her if I saw her on the street. That's okay. In addition, Cat Power has a bright new sound. I doubt that I would recognize it if I heard it on the radio. Well. again, that's okay too. Cat Power is not a stagnant sound and never has been. Just listen to the different albums over the years and you'll see there's been quit a remarkable variation and evolution in the music.

I like the present album. I have a few mixed feelings about a few of the songs. For example, "Cherokee" has a real nice background but it interferes with the vocals. They're both kinda blurred together, and this is true for a number of other songs as well. A little more separation would help the listening. Also, the vocals tend to be layered such that it sounds as if there are three or four Chans singing to us, then some of the background vocals are the same way. My inclination is to think that this makes the music too cluttered. Too many conflicting sounds. Too many vocals. Chan has a beautiful voice; let it stand alone. A bit simpler arrangement would be preferable. My two favorite songs on the album are "Manhattan" and "Nothin' But Time" and they share a common pattern. Both are set up on a simple and almost monotonous musical line and then it is repeated, repeated, and repeated. On and on. Add the rest of the music to it and the songs are quite well done. Very nice job! Very pleasant. I'd say that, in addition to my two favorite tracks, the rest of the best includes "Cherokee," "Ruin," "Real Life," and "Human Being." The production change makes a drastic turn for Cat Power music and I applaud the effort. No doubt the next album of this new direction will be better. Please continue. May I suggest that if you're interested in this type of electronic music that you listen to a few albums by Daft Punk. My rating for this album would be about a 4.5, but I have no way of giving it. Rounding it up to five would seem appropriate.

Gary Peterson
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on February 12, 2014
I am surprised at the less then 5 stars this album got. This album doesn't hit you over the head the first listen even though it has a couple of catchy tunes. This album took months of listening to appreciate how very genius and wonderful it is. I am absolutely blown away by it. I also think it was by far the best album I heard the entire year.
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on September 17, 2012
I cannot wrap my mind around the lukewarm or negative reviews for this album. While it does sound different than anything she has released, it's still Chan behind it all and fans of her music should expect change and not expect another 'Covers Record' or 'The Greatest" (which is the greatest...) Whether it be her changing vocals as she progressed or the transition from barely there guitar to the pounding beats laid out on this album, Cat Power is evolution in progress... and now you can dance to her.
Key Tracks-
Cherokee (my favorite on 'Sun')
Ruin
3,6,9
Human Being
Nothin' But Time
This album sounds like Beck or Danger Mouse produced it, when we know she did it all herself.. produced, written, played and belted out by my favorite jazzy smoky voiced soulful white lady.. There has to be credit given to an artist who does all of the work themselves, which is a far cry from radio garbage written by some old guy, horribly sung by some 16 year old brat then regurgitated too us all. If you bought the CD instead of downloading, make sure you purchase 'King Rides By (Bonus Track)' MP3 on here, I used the $1 promo credit from buying the cd from Amazon to purchase the mp3..
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on April 12, 2013
I have to be one of the more unusual cases of Cat Power fans, as I'm a middle aged man. But, I don't pay much attention to lyrics (can never make them out without going to a lyrics website), so I don't have a girly music issue listening to her. The music and her voice ROCK! Very soulful!
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