The last time Cat Power released a studio album I was in Chicago. This was during an in-between time of living in the city the first time, and living there the last time. I was visiting the city at this moment, staying with a short-lived long distance lover. He and I were both enamored with Chan Marshall’s soulful voice and her darkness-in-light lyrics. We passed a small record store one afternoon that was tucked in next to a train stop, a poster for The Greatest featured prominently in the window, and my then lover dared me to go in and ask for it. I was riding the high of first falling for someone so I took the dare without question, breezing in and out of that tiny store, proudly holding said poster in my hand, waving it at him.

This time around I am in Los Angeles, home for me and my family. I am more settled now, happy, and in the midst of a long –lasting kind of love. The thrill of this album has the same electric twinge to it, though and if I were to find myself wandering past a record store today boasting Chan’s image in the window I would be more than tempted to duck in and ask for it, again, as listening to it gifts me that same high of first falling in love as that moment with that long ago boy did.

I have been excitedly anticipating the release of this album ever since I first heard Ruin, which has garnered repeated play from me and found itself on two August playlists I have put together. It whet my appetite for more from the first listen, and now that I am spinning the album in its entirety I am thrilled to note that the entire album is a splendid thing, and lives up to the instant rush of love I felt for Ruin.

With ever replay I seem to hone in on a different song, my decided favorite shifting and taking turns with each re-listen.

I think what captures me most about Sun is the overwhelming feeling of survival and freedom it is brimming with. The album feels celebratory, but more than that, it feels like a collective, musical sigh of relief followed quickly by an out-powering of living life. This is an album to crank up high in the background of personal fresh starts, even if it is just the fresh start of a new next day. Chan Marshall has had some upheaval over the years between The Greatest and now, with financial bankruptcy, a significant relationship break-up, and some battles with addiction demons left in her wake. All of that is in these songs, you cannot help but hear them, and I believe is all part of why these songs seem like odes to survival to me. It is also most likely a big reason why I relate so strongly to these songs.

Hell yeah, do I relate to these songs.

Today’s favorite of mine is undeniably Nothin But Time, Chan’s duet with Iggy Pop, who I am sure has his own survival tales to tell. I keep hitting repeat and replay on this one, clinging to the lyrical refrains of self-forgiveness that permeate this song. It is a theme that I have struggled with off-and-on during my life, ever willing to forgive the world and all its inhabitants before I can let go of my own guilt about nearly everything I do, and have done.  I love the lyric, “it’s up to you to be a superhero”; I want that printed on a tee shirt, on a coffee cup, or pinned up somewhere as a reminder to myself.

The title song, Sun soars out of my ear buds and car speakers, full of a sonic kick from a more electronic sound than Chan Marshall’s previous work; heavy yet hopeful, beaming as its title suggests, chanting “here it comes, we’re all so tired of waiting”. This song demands high volumes and joined voices singing.

3, 6, 9 was my initial favorite from my first listen of the album. It is one of those songs that feels instantly known to me. I find myself singing the chorus even long after the album has played its course. I stood earlier by the copy machine at work singing-a-long to it, so catchy and familiar, like the numbers that I countdown in my head so very often.

Always On My Own is the heartbreak beat of the bunch, and the song most “Cat Power” recognizable. This is the sound I first fell for back when I stumbled upon Metal Heart, from the Moon Pix album.

Manhattan is the night time in the city choice. It is meant for driving into a too late hour, the neon lights blurring one’s sight as one contemplates leaving for good. We have all had those moments, haven’t we? Those times one feels it is way past time to start over, and even if the actual hour is inappropriate for getting up and getting out, we long to do it.

Human Being and Cherokee both have this late eighties pull to me, reminding me of smoky, dank rooms and dark, lyric-heavy songs playing in the background. Memories of me sitting in the almost dark, holding so very close to someone else, confessing secrets and silences. It is not necessarily the sound of these two songs that remind me of that end of a decade, but more my own personal reflection of that time reflected back to me in these two songs.

This entire album is one of those albums that I will keep playing, over and again, discovering new stories and memories with each listen. I feel all of these songs so much deeper  than I have any of Cat Power’s earlier releases, which is saying quite a lot, as her discography, so far, means so much to me. I look forward to the way these songs will leave their mark on me, and how I will recall them years from now, waxing poetically as I am wont to do about love, loss and life. I look forward to how this album will stick and stay with me into many tomorrows.

Cherokee :: Cat Power

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