Muted, introspective, down-tempo: Anyone who follows indie-rock knows what a Cat Power record sounds like, right? Not anymore. That is, not with the release of “Sun,” the first album of new material in almost six years by the singer-songwriter otherwise known as Chan Marshall. It’sbuilt around hooky synths, throbbing bass lines and pop instincts that yield consistently stirring results
Apart from some haunting layering of vocals, Marshall’s earthy, sensuous voice remains evocative as ever. The songwriting and arrangements are what amount to a new approach, one steeped in imagination, catharsis and surprise. “3, 6, 9,” for example, conjures the baroque pop of the late 1960s Beatles as if spun through a centrifuge, while “Real Life” mixes techno propulsion and sung-spoken vocals to hypnotic effect. Several other tracks, including “Cherokee” and “Always on My Own,” fuse ambience and angularity in the spirit of Wire’s classic second album, “Chairs Missing.” Marshall’s record builds gradually, with a tendency, early on, toward minimalism and austerity, giving way to increasingly bold and dramatic moments as it builds to its climax. “Silent Machine,” the third-to-last track, opens the album’s final section with an unlikely mix of atmospherics and garage rock, but it’s with the set-closing “Peace and Love” that Marshall really abandons herself to her newfound creativity.
Replete with anthemic “nah-nah-nahs” and hyper-referential stream-of-consciousness lyrics akin to R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It,” her performance not only demonstrates her knack for the big statement, but does so with the pop-funk panache of a big-time rock star.
“Silent Machine,” “Nothing But Time,” “Peace and Love”