Sun is the first album of original material from Chan Marshall – aka Cat Power – in six years. She followed up 2006′s The Greatest with her second album of covers in 2008, and since then she’s been been hospitalised for stress, penned some incredibly bleak songs then scrapped them, and now produced this album, which fittingly addresses the theme of starting over.
Many of the songs on the album are about self-empowerment; a contrast to her previous work, which was sorrowful and examined her struggles with depression and heartbreak. Marshall says the album’s message is “don’t look back, pick up, and go confidently into your own future, to personal power and fulfilment”, adding that the album is a “rebirth”, and that’s certainly a good way of summing it up.
The first part of the album is absolutely flawless. Cherokee is an extremely catchy start, showcasing the synths and layered vocals which permeate much of the album. The fantastic title track is up next, highlighting a more electronic sound from Marshall, and then comes wonderful first single, Ruin, followed by the bluesy, brilliant 3, 6, 9. Manhattan is absolutely gorgeous, and Nothin’ But Time is another stand out song, seeing none other than Iggy Pop lending his hand on vocal duties. It’s a ten minute long positive mantra which sums up the theme of the album well with the line ‘it’s up to you to be superhero, it’s up to you to be like nobody’, as Marshall repeats ‘the world is just beginning’ over and over to great effect, and it doesn’t bore in the slightest despite its length.
Optimistic and upbeat, the album strengthens with each spin as layers unfold upon every listen. Although some might miss Marshall’s melancholy musings, it’s good to hear her happier; her voice, which once sounded tortured and world-weary, becomes something else, proving it can be soothing and reassuring too. The record clearly shows a new direction for Cat Power, but she hasn’t changed too much, and it still contains hints of previous work – especially 2003′s You Are Free – at times.
Luckily, the wait for new material from Cat Power was worth it and Sun doesn’t disappoint; it’s a return to form for Chan Marshall, and her best work in almost a decade. It’s a fresh start to be proud of.