Cat Power – ‘Wanderer’ review

Score

On her bluesy 10th album as Cat Power, Chan Marshall honours herself and her own creativity

‘Nothing but Time’, the shimmering centrepiece of Cat Power’s last album, ‘Sun’, is an 11-minute, Iggy Pop-featuring opus about doubt and depression (“It’s nothing but time / And it ain’t got nothing on you”). This was the sound of someone convincing themselves to give life another go – by contrast, the centrepiece to new album ‘Wanderer’, the joyous Lana Del Rey collaboration ‘Woman’, concludes with the duo chanting the track’s title over and over. A celebration of identity, femininity and knowing precisely who you are (and feeling brilliant about it), the track is equally jubilant and self-assured.

‘Sun’ was expensively produced, layered, electronic, keen to impress its importance. 10th album ‘Wanderer’ is more comfortable in its own skin, more intimate (the album sleeve sees Chan Marshall stood with her guitar and young son, her closest allies). Marshall has claimed that her previous label, Matador – her home for more than 20 years – wanted her to sound like Adele and rejected ‘Wanderer’. Now released through Domino (home of Arctic Monkeys), this is a sparse collection of folk-blues, combining the itchy minimalism of her early albums with the soulful, honeyed tones of ‘The Greatest’, which became her commercial breakthrough in 2006.

Over the lilting ‘In Your Face’, she laments, “You never take what you say seriously”. The object of her ire will meet their comeuppance, though – the song’s title alludes to the Buddhist belief that karma shows in your face, for anyone and everyone to see. ‘Robbin Hood’ is a brittle acoustic ditty – accompanied by atmospheric, glassy percussion – on which Marshall sneers at a “big cat fat cat” with the “biggest piece of the pie”. She’s said that the record was written with reverence to the generations of folk and blues musicians who came before her, and it’s on this atavistic-sounding song that that intention is most keenly felt.

For the most part, though, ‘Wanderer’ is an ode to Marshall’s indomitable sense of self. It’s the sound of someone with the confidence to reimagine Rihanna’s ‘Stay’ as a fractured, skeletal piano ballad. Other highlights include ‘Horizon’; ignoring the fact that the intro sounds alarmingly similar to Bryan Adams’ ‘(Everything I Do) I Do It for You’, the track is a beatific paean to familial love (and a dissonant squall of autotune stops everything from getting too mushy). This album is a quiet triumph, the understated work of an artist honouring herself and her creativity.

Details

Release date: October 5
Record label: Domino Recording Co.