Cat Power The Greatest

[Matador; 2006]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: indie rock, singer/songwriter
Others: Kristin Hersh, Cynthia Dall, Elliott Smith, Tegan & Sara

2006 is shaping up to be a weird year already for music, here in January. With the exception of "Hate" and "Love And Communication," the two closing tracks, the greatest Cat Power album yet is also, by far, her most hopeful, often approaching cheery. I had no idea her voice could sound so much like Dido's if she ever decided to take it a bit easier, which she obviously does here in what is surreal fashion for me. In doing so, she enlisted the aid of Al Green guitarist "Teenie" Hodges and Booker T & The MG's replacement drummer Steve Potts, among other mentionable Memphis musicians, and booked time in an alternative Stax studio. That's something of a switch from the aging grunge gurus (Dave Grohl, Eddie Vedder) who appeared on her critically praised last release. The resulting effect of steady 'dragging horseshoes on the trail' basslines and more of an ease in her lyricism and delivery made me light-headed for almost my entire first listening. I asked myself, "What is she doing? Did she quit drinking? Am I dead?" I had listened to Chan Marshall play the piano and sing for some 40-minutes straight... yet I wasn't yearning the sweet embrace of death with quiet desperation the majority of the time. Insanity, I tell you, chaos: trees raking leaves, dogs and cats living together, madness.

After generating more of a buzz with 2003's You Are Free than with anything else she's put out, I can see this album heavily impacting the 30-something part-time New York native's future. The Greatest is a bold statement for someone whose alcohol-fuelled stage antics have become lore, passed down from fan to fan, all of which paint a picture of the young woman as a very fragile personality, to say the least. I suppose Björk still manages to release albums that satisfy her fans well enough, so it might all work out. I just hope Chan knows what she's getting into. This will be on most of the indie-ish year end tops charts this year, guaranteed.

1. The Greatest
2. Could We
3. Lived In Bars
4. Islands
5. After It All
6. The Moon
7. Living Proof
8. Empty Shell
9. Willie
10. Where Is My Love
11. Hate
12. Love & Communication