Chan Marshall a.k.a. Cat Power’s dedicated and devoted fanbase can now rejoice: her spare, meditative and gorgeous tenth album, Wanderer, is here. It’s her first in six years, her first since becoming a mother, and her first since leaving Matador.
Marshall has explored several styles throughout her long career. There’s the indie folk of What Would the Community Think and You Are Free, the warm Memphis soul of The Greatest, the silvery blues of Jukebox, and the light electronic experimentation of Sun. On Wanderer, all of these styles come together cohesively.
One of the most striking tracks, “Horizon,” has all of it: pretty, glistening piano, a simple, repetitive pluck of guitar, warm bass, and vocoded – yes, vocoded – background vocals. And through all of it, there’s her voice, which is really what we’re here for, isn’t it? Marshall has one of the most mesmerizing voices in all of indie rock. It’s smooth but raspy, fleeting but firm.
Her songs have a hesitance, like she’s writing the lyrics as she goes, and yet a confidence like the song has been inside her forever. There’s a quiet determination to Wanderer that’s totally captivating and feels right for the time. Even in some of the album’s bleaker moments, you can feel her urging you to keep your chin up, choose love, and to keep on keeping on. “I’m a woman of my word / now you have heard / my words the only thing I truly need,” she sings with Lana Del Rey on “Woman.”
Sometimes her words are the only thing I need. And if you’re not sold on this album yet, she even covers a Rihanna song.