Wanderer by Cat Power
Cat Power has been soothing the world with her sultry voice for over twenty years, since her debut Dear Sir in 1995. The trajectory of her creative output has steadily slowed since that first album, having three releases between 1995-1996, then two releases two years apart, two releases three years apart, one four years after that, and then finally Wanderer, her tenth album, six years later. Despite ten albums in 23 years, only two of those have been released since the Top 31 began in 2009, and I don’t think I’ve once mentioned her in that span. Her 2012 album, Sun, did not impress me. And yet, I’ve listened to her music pretty regularly since her critically-acclaimed 1998 breakthrough album, Moon Pix, recorded with a couple members of the Dirty Three to great effect. She did have a track on the oft-mentioned Dessner-brother produced Red Hot compilation Dark Was the Night, which was #10 in 2009, and that’s the closest I’ve ever come to discussing Cat Power.
This post has been a long-time coming, I suppose. Her real name is Chan Marshall, and apparently she was discovered opening for Liz Phair in 1993 by members of Sonic Youth and Two Dollar Guitar. That’s a good way to get started on the right foot in the music business. Since the above-mentioned Moon Pix she’s had a slew of amazing albums that all would have been on the Top 31 had it existed, including 2003’s You Are Free (which happens to feature Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder) and The Greatest in 2006 (featuring phenomenal Mempis-based studio musicians for an entirely unique feel).
Marshall has a way of stripping down a song to its bare essence, drawing you ever closer to the speaker in an attempt to hear the parting of her lips and the dancing of her tongue on the back of her teeth. In addition to her own fantastic songs, she is the master of the cover, having released two full albums of covers (The Covers Record in 2000 and Jukebox in 2008). Her gift is to make these songs her own, barely recognizable from the original. My favorite track on Wanderer is actually a cover as well, of of Rihanna’s 2012 song “Stay”. You must hear this song — thankfully there’s a video for you to be able to do just that.
The video above, for the song “Woman,” features Lana Del Rey on harmonies and background vocals. It was the first single for this new record, and it does a good job of summing up Cat Power and her ups and downs over the years quite well:
I’m a woman of my word, now haven’t you heard?
My word’s the only thing I’ve ever needed
I’m a woman of my word, now you have heard
My word’s the only thing I truly need
Her word, above all else, is what has carried her through many different phases of her life, and will continue to do so. If you’ve not heard of Cat Power before now, you’ve been living under a rock. Wanderer is a perfect way to get into her, and that album will bleed into her previous records quite nicely. You’d best get started — you have a lot of ground to cover.
8. Tell Me How You Really Feel by Courtney Barnett
9. The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs by Wye Oak
10. Ruins by First Aid Kit
11. Cocoa Sugar by Young Fathers
12. Loner by Caroline Rose
13. Big Red Machine by Big Red Machine
14. I’ll Be Your Girl by The Decemberists
15. The More I Sleep the Less I Dream by We Were Promised Jetpacks
16. Joy as an Act of Resistance by IDLES
17. Hell-On by Neko Case
18. Superorganism by Superorganism
19. Living in Extraordinary Times by James
20. Thank You for Today by Death Cab for Cutie
21. Black Panther: The Album by Kendrick Lamar
22. Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film) by Thom Yorke
23. Merrie Land by The Good, the Bad & the Queen
24. Room 25 by Noname
25. WARM by Jeff Tweedy
26. God's Favorite Customer by Father John Misty
27. Vessel by Frankie Cosmos
28. For Ever by Jungle
29. Twerp Verse by Speedy Ortiz
30. Remain in Light by Angélique Kidjo
31. This One’s for the Dancer & This One’s for the Dancer’s Bouquet by Moonface