Cat Power - Wanderer - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Cat Power - Wanderer

by Tim Sentz Rating:8 Release Date:2018-10-05
Cat Power - Wanderer
Cat Power - Wanderer

Chan Marshall is one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the last 30 years, without question. She’s navigated multiple genres, and while every release hasn’t been spectacular – her covers albums are hit or miss – she always brings a certain degree of comfort when she releases new material. Six years removed from her underrated electro-pop opus Sun from 2012, Marshall returns with a prime slice of Americana that finds her in a more stripped-down atmosphere, hearkening back to her Moon Pix days.

Wanderer, like so many other albums from 2017 and 2018, is a direct response to the rupturing of prosperity brought forth from the United States 2016 Election. Marshall, a strong advocate for peace and women’s rights obviously took offense to the bewildering rise of President Trump. Since the turn of the century, Cat Power albums have taken a stronger focus on the world around Marshall and moved away from her somber yet inciteful early work with regards to her own struggles and hurdles. Moon Pix can be viewed as a statement on her own emotional state, and acts as an early example of emo music, much like Weezer’s Pinkerton.

A lot has changed in Marshall’s life since the last time we heard from her. Now a mother, and estranged from her long-term relationship with actor Giovanni Ribisi, she’s now finding herself centered with the direction of her life. Wanderer’s strengths lie in Marshall’s keen eye on American life. Wanderer isn’t the greatest Cat Power album, but it’s the appropriate album for Marshall at this point in her near 30-year career. The hard edges of her early work are gone, there’s nothing quite as roaring as “Rockets” from Myra Lee, and nothing even resembles the rock-pop we found on her best album You Are Free like “He War.” Instead, this approach to folk and blues resembles more Moon Pix than Sun. She’s centered and focusing on her life moving forward in tumultuous times.

The album’s opener and first single “Wanderer” is a brisk introduction, and the video sets the tone for this album’s feel perfectly. It finds Marshall doing just what the title suggests – wandering. Wandering through deserts, beaches, mountains, forests, - she’s out there digging into the Earth as a wandering soul looking for her place in this world. “In Your Face” drives this theme home – delicate piano keys template the song, as Marshall’s never wavering voice repeats “in the mirror, in your mirror.” Reflection, contemplation – the time for war is hopefully over, and Marshall just wants to find her center in this mad world.

“You Get” is more of an upbeat tune, but she never brings these blues songs to a full swing, keeping everything subdued, almost like lounge music. Wanderer isn’t for the bangers or the moshers, it’s for those of us needed some reprieve from the day-to-day chaos. “Woman” is the major single released from Wanderer and features a thrilling guest spot from Lana Del Rey. While the song’s impressive harmonizing works into a soulful gesture full of feeling and gorgeous bridges, the outro “woman, woman, woman” gets a little silly, but it works for the two. And Marshall’s directness has always leaned a little tongue-in-cheek like on Sun’s banger “Ruin” where she declared “some people ain’t got shit to eat – bitchin and moanin.” It works for Marshall, but it may deter some just because of how straightforward it is. Marshall never shies away from covers either - here she takes on Rihanna's "Stay" and doesn't an excellent job interpreting the original's rigidness. 

“Horizon” may be the only song that doesn’t typically fit. Wanderer is primarily an Americana album, about the world around decimated by hatred and greed, but the auto-tune layers of “Horizon” are a bit out of place. Wanderer is full of barren instrumentation and production – it’s mostly piano balladry, punctuated strings, a few drums here and there. The elevated vocals from Marshal run the album from start to finish and its somber tone pinpoints Marshall’s state of mind during recording. It’s not a depressing album, but it’s far from how we were Marshall on Sun. There are comforting moments but for the most part, Wanderer is a reflective piece that works best when paired with a twilight on the porch, just as the fireflies come out. There’s hope laced throughout Wanderer, but it comes in sprints, and as Marshall looks to the sunsets optimistically but still cautious. No one has ever questioned the humanistic side of Cat Power – Marshall has always been that “Rockstar” that we empathize with and understand. Wanderer is just the next step in all of our lives.  

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars
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