IDOL FRIDAY : Chan Marshall AKA Cat Power

Ahhhhhhh Chan Marshall, how I love thee! Such an enchanting, mysterious, soulful, aware and FEELING woman of the world.

A honey-voiced soul crooner with an amazing, ethereal, tortured-soul-sensibility to her brilliant songwriting. Emotionally intense is how she’s often described, and it’s a term that fits both her person and her sad, dark, confused nightmarish music, as gorgeous as it is unsettling.

2013 sees Marshall triumphant, riding on the wave of her latest release Sun, her ninth album in 17 years. Rightfully so. The record’s upbeat, often jubilant vibe (not words often associated with Marshall’s music) and the slew of critical acclaim that has followed have seen her rise to new heights.

The artist who records and performs under the moniker of Cat Power had been flying a little under the radar for a couple years, since the 2008 covers record Jukebox. To my absolute delight she resurfaced late last year with this blazing, pop-minded, pixie-cut release.  The anticipation for Sun had been high, and the album, blessedly, lived up to them. And then some.

The album’s name comes from second track, Sun, a swoony piece of electronica that acts almost as a mission statement: “Here is the day/ We are free, you and me, and we can finally run”.  Sun is truly moving and full of head trips. We see synths taking the place of guitars in a lot of places, yet it still brims with that Cat Power aesthetic in the form of 80s sounding reverby guitars, rawness, relapses and Chan’s signature powerful emotions beaming through. There’s even a duet with fellow rock icon and survivor Iggy, called ‘Nothin But Time’. On it, Chan mutters a sentiment that seems to run through the heart of Sun : “its up to you”.  Also pulsing through it’s veins is an affirmative “I want to live my way of living” attitude.

Sun sees Marshall counterpointing her usual darkness with some unusually bright, snappy sounds to great effect – the whole while exorcising the emotional demons of a recent relationship meltdown and the fears of facing bankruptcy.  Chan has lived to fight another day, she’s evidently on the road to sobriety and emotional recovery. And this album is clearly her rebirth.

On Sun, there was “much less shaking hands with the dark side” says Chan.

“As Cat Power, Marshall’s music seems to rise from nowhere, envelop the room, then vanish; listeners know they’ve been hit by something but they’re not quite sure what”.

“I’m just going where the wine takes me. I got more guts than brains, and that’s my problem. My gut taught me a lot, so I know a little bit. Does that answer the question?”

“I was always the outsider. You know, the new kid who doesn’t have friends.”

“I used to want to be a war photographer, and I used to want to be a ballerina and a comedian. I used to want to be a writer. I invalidated myself, it’s a mistake for me. I have learned through my friendships and through people that I’ve met who survived. There’s just a lot of stuff that really moves me, and I don’t know how to express it, and I just want to try to do the best I can and surround myself with good people who don’t invalidate me.”

“So much of the time it’s just like, I really don’t want to be here. The basketball game is on. I just want to buy a bag of Oreos and get into bed. When I start writing, it’s like you have a hammer in one hand and a homing device in the other, and then it’s like, Now what do I do?”

“Besides humiliation, degradation and invalidation, actually not knowing who you are when you’re trapped in a room — not actually knowing your name, what you look like, how old you are, where you come from — is the worst feeling.”

“I’m convinced none of us are really from here.”

Marshall is a survivor, she’s real and raw and a beautiful, soulful storyteller who’s not afraid to tackle the hard emotional stuff in her art. Her colourful and textured life is full of the kind of heartbreaks, crossroads, epiphanies and meltdowns that endear her to her ardent fans,  all the more for having lived through it all. She’s come out the other side, wiser, triumphant and more at peace.  Listening to Sun, you can hear it coursing through every note. Triumph over adversity. That’s why we love her so.

All hail Ms Marshall.



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