It’s been 4 years since the last Cat Power and 6 since the last with original material, that being The Greatest, her most successful album to date. So you’d assume there would be some anticipation for the next album she releases, but to be honest I was not one of those people. I mean I actually think The Greatest is a good album but it’s kind of like Schindler’s List. It’s a great movie, and whenever it’s on, I really enjoy it, but I am never like “You know what I want watch right now? Schindler’s List.” Cat Power is just one of those artists that I enjoy but never crave listening to. It’s very intense, and sweet, but not something to flip on casually. With this latest release however Cat Power is redefining herself as an artist that will perhaps reconsider any feelings you had about her music before.
Sun is thematically opposite to the The Greatest (which happened to have “The Moon” on it), but it’s symbolizes a rebirth of her career. Her style has always relied on her sultry voice and minimal guitar playing, but here she opens things up to include all sorts of electronic equipment, synthesizers, and samples to accompany her sultry voice. It’s exciting to hear artists challenge themselves although it’s always a risk that could alienate their fans (Metallica) or reenergize them (Radiohead). The album kicks off with “Cherokee”, it builds slowly but starts to introduce some of the new sounds including electronic drums, and even occasionally some effects on her vocals, which is kind of a risk because her voice is her bread and butter, but it actually works. The title track “Sun” follows which takes the electric beats even further creating a very exciting full sound, which then culminates in “Ruin” the first single on the album which is the song that utilizes all of the new elements to their fullest potential. Cat Power starts to show that she is an intelligent song writer because even as the album flows we hear some very basic electronic elements, but it’s her lyrics and vocal cadence that drives all the songs. She even gets some help from the incomparable Iggy Pop on the 10 minute plus track “Nothing But Time” which creates a methodical trance and a mantra as she croons “I want to live!”
It’s an uplifting record with a revitalized sound that is exciting to hear from an artist that is now entering her 40’s. Cat Power’s career could have easily slipped into a Lilith Fair girl on stool playing an acoustic guitar type of thing, and it would have maintained a faithful base, but it doesn’t seem like she’s content with that. Contentment is a nice feeling to have but as an artist, it’s death, lessons for us all.