Chan Marshall pares things back for the better on 'Wanderer'
In 2012 Chan Marshall released Sun, a synth-pop record that marked her ninth full-length as Cat Power. Sun came out on her longtime label, Matador Records, but six years later Marshall made the surprising jump to Domino Records for Wanderer, a warm, spare Cat Power album that she said Matador rejected. Marshall's thick, husky voice and idiosyncratic phrasing are instantly recognizable from her 20-plus years of recording, and on Wanderer her singing takes center stage, often accompanied only by softly strummed guitar, delicate piano or a bit of both. The instruments sound as if they're broadcasting from beneath a pool of cotton balls.
Marshall's cover of Rihanna's “Stay” turns a pop ballad into a beautifully ramshackle lullaby, whereas the title track is a 74-second, a capella meditation that, in true Cat Power fashion, opts for scene-setting imagery and dream-like ruminations over linear storytelling. “Twist of fate would have me sing at your wedding/With a baby on my mind and your soul in between,” Marshall sings, and while the sentiment behind the words is palpable, you'll just have to use your imagination to fill in the gaps. Or better yet, just embrace the mystery.
Cat Power is the opening act for Mumford & Sons, a British band that made a name for itself by merging the Avett Brothers with U2 while wearing suspenders. These days the band is trying to move on from its faux-hayseed beginnings by approximating Coldplay. (Safe bet/Think twice)