Matador, 2012

Time and distance, be it geographical or emotional, have always been great assets to a songwriter. The ability to cease all activity, to step off the treadmill and get his/her shit straight, to let real life take precedence.

In a career that’s had its share of ups and downs, Chan Marshall has certainly had her reasons. The 6 years preceding her last album of original material, gave way to her second covers album Jukebox and several years of touring with her Delta Blues band, allowing Marshall to lend full weight to her love of blues and soul.

What’s clear from the outset is that Sun is not an ordinary Cat Power album. In what Marshall has called “a rebirth”, Sun balances itself with looped beats and samples against the stark piano and guitar ruminations of old. Here opener “Cherokee” and the title track become mid-90’s trip-hop fare that sound dated and more passable experiments that work than anything else. Having grown accustomed to Marshall’s more traditional means, Sun does lend weight to the “rebirth” claims.

Such comfortability in sound and songwriting is what claimed the first abortive attempt at recording the album with her Delta Blues Boys, with Marshall wiping the slate clean and taking a self-sufficient approach to the recording and production of the album. Only on the groove-laden rolling pianos of “Ruin”, do her old bandmates make an appearance to lend Sun one of its stand-out moments.

There are some who will frown on the more experimental side and warm to when Marshall keeps the instrumentation simple and allows her voice and words to take precedence. The straight-played serious call of “Human Being”‘ and its key lyric — “you got a right to scream when they don’t want you to speak” is one example where Marshall cuts to the heart of her message, and Sun is full of them.

It’s a record of redemption and spirit and spirituality and strength. Like on the Iggy Pop assisted word to the young, “Nothin’ But Time” and closer “Peace and Love”, where Marshall lays it all down, a rambling woman in excelsis — “peace and love is a famous generation/i’m in love but i’m in it to win it”. Sun makes for a convincing case.