Wanderer

Cat Power

Wanderer
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Wanderer

Cat Power

Wanderer, the 10th studio album from Cat Power a.k.a. Chan Marshall, marks a pivotal moment in both her life and her career.

It’s been 6 years since the release of her last record, 2012’s ‘Sun,’ during which Marshall has been through a period of profound upheaval and radical change, including the loss of a dear friend, the birth of her child, and the reorganization of both her life priorities and understanding of herself.

These experiences have resulted in a record that is arguably the most assured artistic statement of her career. Produced by Marshall, the album includes appearances by longtime friends and compatriots, as well as guest vocals courtesy of friend and recent tourmate Lana Del Rey. Wanderer is, in many ways, a kind of quintessential Cat Power record, with Marshall’s clarion voice front and center in a set of songs that are remarkably stark and straightforward.   

Review

Six years after her electronica-influenced album Sun, Chan Marshall returns with a pared-back, self-produced album that she has dedicated to all those who wandered before her, a notion that weaves its way through each song. Wanderer sounds like it could be performed on porches, in a sunlit field, in living rooms, or in the hot, dusty desert: it rings with the sound of spurs on a plain, or echoing voices falling like rain. From the opening title piece, a wistful, beautiful vocal track with something of Kurt Cobain’s earnestness tempered by Marshall’s raw-honey tones, it is clear that each layer she adds to Wanderer is carefully considered.

Marshall’s reverence for the folk singers and blues singers of generations before – along with a nod to country singers in some of her best songs – is evident. Wanderer is both classic and modern: Marshall understands what has come before, though nothing is quite like Cat Power. In ‘You Get’, Marshall repeatedly insists ‘you get what you get’ and it feels bold and determined; in ‘Black’ she tells a compact, chilling story – something of a campfire legend, but with the ring of truth – with a dark guitar and a voice that could haunt you for days. Piano soars over strings in ‘Stay’, a ballad to broken souls; ‘Woman’, featuring Lana Del Rey, speeds from a shadowy, glorious twang lamenting the unwanted opinion of others to the two declaring in a clamouring chorus: ‘I’m a woman’; ‘Horizon’ feels like the prairie, as understated and expansive as its name, and a call to family: mother, father, sister, brother. ‘Wanderer/Exit’ finishes the album with a variation on its beginning, and closes it off with distant horns that call forth timeless, wide-open spaghetti westerns, and a sound – and artist – that cannot be contained.


Fiona Hardy is our monthly crime fiction columnist, and also blogs about children’s books at Fiona The Hardy.

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