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Tuesday Tunes: Spotlight on Cat Power

SunIt might have taken Cat Power six years to release a new album of original material, but it isn’t as if she’s been slacking.

On “Sun,” the singer-songwriter born Chan Marshall (in Atlanta) plays nearly every instrument and constructed these tunes from deep emotions.

Somehow, she’s managed to craft a record that is full of slick production tricks – synthesizers, drum loops, hazy harmonies – yet it usually sounds minimalistic.

The combination of her ethereal voice and lilting drum loops buoy “Cherokee” and “3,6,9,” a perfect Sunday afternoon song – many of these are, actually – except that her lyrics aren’t meant for lounging, but for listening.

On “Ruin,” which sounds like an iTunes commercial as done by Sinead O’Connor, Power suggests we take a look inward and stop whining about our perceived insufficiencies in life. She also injects some bracing reality into “Manhattan,” which, despite its gentle piano plinks in the background, reminds us that “people come and people go, all the friends that we used to know ain’t coming back.”

The album’s centerpiece is the 11-minute “Nothin’ But Time,” which is intriguing in its concept and mostly succeeds with its swirling concoction of synthesizers, piano and trippy melodies. But when Iggy Pop shows up halfway through for some deep-throated harmonies and “Time” begins a fade in-and-out routine, what initially began as a pure pop song starts to sound like a gimmick, which seems a bit beneath Power’s talents.

Also available Tuesday:

  • Melissa Etheridge, “4th Street Feeling,” a typically gutsy collection of roots-rockers and acoustic ballads from the raspy singer. It’s her 12th studio album, named for a street in her Kansas hometown.
  • Matchbox Twenty, “North,” the first release from the mega-selling band in a decade. They’re easy to hate, but their songs aren’t. Just try listening to first single “She’s So Mean,” and then try not hearing it in your head the rest of the day. That’s the Rob Thomas effect.
  • Mark Knopfler, “Privateering,” a two-CD, 20-song set of originals from the former Dire Straits frontman, whose distinctive voice still sounds wonderfully worn.
  • Bob Mould, “Silver Age,” the latest from the reliable rocker who will always be associated with Hüsker Dü.
  • Smash Mouth, “Magic,” for the dozen or so fans who might care that the band behind such ‘90s earworms as “Walkin’ on the Sun” and “All Star” have released their first album in six years. It includes a cover of Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”
  • Dave Stewart, “The Ringmaster General,” the latest solo effort from the male half of Eurythmics, featuring guest shots from Joss Stone and Alison Krauss.

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

5 comments Add your comment

AGra

September 4th, 2012
11:07 am

I love Cat Power! I can’t wait to listen to the album.

creative

September 4th, 2012
11:35 am

Melissa,

Glad you are reviewing music that is not pop. Cat Power is a great band. You are doing an outstanding job. Keep up the good work. There are so many Atlanta bands that are great and I think that we finally have a real music editor. There is a guitar player from Shiloh High School (David Pollack, Mastadon, Diana DeGarmo, and Sound Tribe Sector 9 fame) named Mark Tillman that is playing in a band in LA called The Ross Sea Party. They have recently been featured in a Target ad as well as an episode of Private Practice. The album is released this week. They have a few videos as well. It would be great if you could review it. Website is below. You rock. Thanks for your hard work

http://www.therossseaparty.com/

Sam

September 4th, 2012
11:44 am

Smash Mouth and Matchbox Twenty get nods, but nothing for the new Animal Collective or Deerhoof?

Maumee

September 4th, 2012
2:23 pm

What a great, thoughtful and well written review on Cat Power! Makes me anxious to take it for a spin. And, thank you for eschewing the tired, cheap shots concerning CP’s already well picked-over eccentricities. They are worrisome to those who love her, but they can always be found elsewhere in abondance. You’re a professional (and a pretty classy one at that).

Melissa Ruggieri

September 4th, 2012
8:08 pm

Hi Creative – thanks for the heads-up on Ross Sea Party. I’ll make sure to check them out. Thanks for the compliment, as well…I can’t please everyone, but I’m trying to at least cover most of the bases!

Cheers,
Melissa