Cat Power – Wanderer
- David Pollock
- 21 September 2018
Confident and mournful comeback record from Chan Marshall
Somewhere out there, in a Star Trek mirror universe which flips our own reality upon its head, Chan Marshall stands alongside the likes of John Grant and Bon Iver as an artist who has graduated from the life of a moderately successful alternative singer-songwriter to the kind of artist who inspires standing ovations in packed concert halls. Some of the reasons why this hasn't yet come to fruition have been well-documented, for those who follow her career closely; an extended period of drug and alcohol abuse, mental problems and personal bereavement. Yet outside of her own situation, Marshall has continued to create gorgeous music, and her heart-stirringly smoky voice remains undiminished.
Wanderer constitutes something of a comeback for Marshall, who has released only one album – 2012's heavily electronic Sun – in the last decade; by comparison, the ten years before that brought five records. It's a return to the sound which made her name, a sparse and mournful form of country-rock which often focuses entirely upon her own guitar or piano, and that instantly recognisable voice. The opening title track is pin-droppingly peaceful, with just Marshall's vocal and a hymnal choir in the background – there's a sense of wanderlust with lyrics such as, 'give my hand to Jesus and go wandering again.'
The whole album bears a sense of departure, from the strutting, confident slow groove of 'You Get' to 'Horizon's affirmative 'you're on the horizon / I head the other way' sign-off. It feels as though she's leaving something behind – her old life, old hurt, old people – but moving towards the brightness of the future. 'I'm the only one who needed saving,' she admits on 'Stay', a song of reconciliation to someone close, and on the stark, piano-led 'Nothing Really Matters' there's a sense of contented surrender to inevitability. The closest thing the record has to a truly upbeat song is 'Woman', which features friend and tour mate Lana Del Rey. But, whatever confessional might be going on between the lines of the sometimes veiled lyrics here, these songs capably bear the power of the name she's chosen for herself.
Out Fri 5 Oct on Domino.