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Cat Power


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Bluesy alternative indierock

Status:

Most recent release, Sun (2012)

See also:

Cat Power's site

Wikipedia's entry on Cat Power

Matador Records' Cat Power page

Cat Power's MySpace page

Comparisons:

A little like a lower-fi, less folkie, more dreamy indierock Beth Orton

Covers/own material:

Own, occasional covers

General comments:

It's obvious that she hasn't had any voice or guitar training (by now both should've improved). But that really shouldn't matter, it was refreshing to hear someone so (seemingly) untrained still put out a good record. She's credited with the songwriting, and I think there's some pretty amazing examples of that.
     Basically, the band formed because someone, I think it was Steve Shelley (who is Sonic Youth's drummer, or at least was on the earlier albums), thought she was cool and should try singing. And they just started a band, got signed (obviously Shelley had connections), and put out some pretty good records. But yeah, I recommed Cat Power. Very lo-fi, brooding and with a bit of a twang. If I remember correctly, she was weened on C&W. (Plasterofstevie@aol.com)

Very different and quiet; otherworldly and sparse, in fact. Definitely not everyone's cup of tea but I like her. I ordered these sight-unseen. OK, the earliest one, Myra Lee doesn't set me on fire—some tracks have a feel of someone with a lot of enthusiasm (if not ability) just sitting in their kitchen and learning to play the guitar.... But the later two disks would prove this assessment wrong. She has something.... Moon Pix is my favourite for now. I file her CDs under "late night music". Slowcore. Sparse. Whatever.... (afries@zip.com.au)

Best discovery so far of 1999 is Cat Power—though I can see some people really hating it. Chan's quirky/stumbly delivery is quite intoxicating. (rholmes@CS.Stanford.EDU)

Comments about live performance:

The concert had no impact to me, since, just like on record, she's extremely lo-fi and often seems disinterested. (Plasterofstevie@aol.com)

I like Chan's most recent album but her shows can sometimes be hard to watch. Her performances seem to lack focus and she never appears to be having fun playing in front of people. This might be different when playing to her hometown or her other favorite places to play but at her LA shows, she's looked very uncomfortable, hence, making her audiences have similar discomfort.... (7/99, thecritics@earthlink.net)

Recommended first album:

You Are Free

Recordings:


Myra Lee

Release info:

1995(?)—smells like records, P.O. Box 6179, Hoboken, NJ 07030, U.S.A.—SLR-019

Availability:

U.S. stores that carry indie releases

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of Cat Power

Group members:

Chan Marshall, Tim Foljahn, Steve Shelley

Comments:

This to me is the most like Moon Pix, and so I would recommend it over What Would The Community Think. (Neile)

this low key, brooding record reminds me a good bit of early throwing muses, although a little less frenetic, with chords not as strange, and with enough of a twang to some of the guitar parts that the hank williams (senior, thanks) cover seems perfectly appropriate. (dmw@mwmw.com)

My first impression is that it was amateurish, but on another listen I discover I was wrong. It seemed MUCH better this time around. In fact, I've absolutely no idea how I got my initial negative impression. (afries@zip.com.au)


What Would The Community Think

Release info:

1996—Matador Records U.S.A.—OLE 202-2

Availability:

Wide in U.S. in paces that carry indie releases

Ecto priority:

Recommended for fans of Cat Power

Group members:

Chan Marshall—guitars, piano, big muff + all songs

Guest artists:

Tim Foljahn—guitars and much patience
Steve Shelley—all drums, xylophone and much patience
Doug—pedal steel
Davis—moog

Comments:

One of my favorite albums of 1996. (Plasterofstevie@aol.com)

Moon Pix

Release info:

1998—Matador Records, U.S.A.—OLE 286-2

Availability:

Wide in U.S. in places that carry indie releases

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Chan Marshall—guitar, vocals, piano

Guest artists:

Belinda Woods
Andrew Entsch—bass
Mick Turner—guitar
Jim White—drums

Comments:

it's very mellow and her voice reminds me *a lot* of beth orton, but i just can't seem to get into it. there isn't anything that reaches out and grabs me or blows me away upon first (or second, or third) listen...i don't know. it came on a day when i got some other stuff (Thanks jill!!) so maybe i haven't given it enough of a chance, but...i don't know. it's interesting.... (00jnweiser@bsuvc.bsu.edu)

I love the bluesy feel of this! Bluesy, dreamy, edgy—I love this, those I do think there are some weaker songs, but I could play "Cross Bones Style" forever—it's one of those songs that evokes an indefinable yearning for something. There are other haunting songs like that on here, too. A wonderful discovery I thank the ecto list for. (Neile)

I think it's great myself, but I wouldn't go recommending it to everyone. In fact I'd say it will only appear to some, but those who like it will probably end up liking it a lot.... (afries@zip.com.au)

A great summer album: melancholy, aching. Turn on the fan and let this one chase your nightmares away. I listen to it constantly; everyone would love it. haunting, folk, mazzy star meets beth orton vocals. Moon Pix is her best album by far. get it! have i written this before, probably, this album is tremendous. seriously, u must own Moon Pix! (nnadel@hotmail.com)

A friend bought this for me and I'm kicking myself for not having gotten into her sooner...I mean...good Christ. I'm pretty sure Neile has mentioned Chan Marshall's abilities...but I am enthralled...I cannot STOP listening to "Metal heart"...the lyric "i once was lost but now am found / was blind but now i see / you" is so perfectly delivered and heartbreakingly beautiful...her guitar playing is way more complex than it sounds on first listen too. And does anybody else think her voice has serious similarities with Beth Orton? t's kinda weird, they're sort of across-the-pond parallels...because Chan is very obviously American and Beth is very obviously British, both in approach and vowel timbres etc. But anyhow, the whole CD is extremely wonderful dark/dreamy American gothic lo-fi folk, for those of y'all who know not. The songs are so poignant and beautiful..."it's so hard to go into the city 'cause you want to say 'hey i love you' to everybody" *drool* I cannot understand what kept me from buying this record two years ago when it came out. *repents* (John.Drummond)


The Covers Record

Release info:

2000—Matador Records and Matador Europe—OLE 426-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended only for Cat Power fans

Comments:

Covers of Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" among others. This is a little too loose and sloppy and drifty for me, and it didn't come into better focus on more listenings. I liked her cover of "Satisfaction"—a very different, almost non-recognizable rendition, but overall this is a disappointment, especially considering how much I liked Moon Pix. (Neile)

Great version of "Satisfaction". (stjarnell@yahoo.com)


You Are Free

Release info:

2003—Matador Records, U.S.A.—Ole 427-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Chan Marshall—guitar, vocals

Guest artists:

Warren Ellis—violin on 1 track
Maggie & Emma—vocals on 1 track
E.V.—vocals on 2 tracks
David Campbell—string arrangement on 2 tracks
D.G.—drums on 3 tracks, bass on 1 track
T.H.—drums on 1 track

Comments:

I think it's her best so far. The songwriting is knock-out, and her delivery of the songs is understated and powerful. I think what makes this one better than Moon Pix is the amazing songwriting. A killer, heartbreaking album. Highly recommended. (Neile)

The Greatest

Release info:

2006—Matador Records, U.S.A.—Ole 626-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Chan Marshall—guitar, piano, string arrangements, vocal

Guest artists:

Mabon "Teenie" Hodges—guitar
Steve Potts—drums
Leroy Hodges—bass on 4 tracks
David Smith—bass on 5 tracks
Doug Easly—guitar, pedal steel
Rick Steff—keyboards, Clavitone, piano, organ
Jim Spake—sax
Scott Thompson—trumpet
Roy Brewer—violin
Johnathan Kirkscey—cello, string arrangements
Beth Luscone—viola
Harlan T. Bobo—string arrangements

Comments:

Though it has a couple of terrific songs, especially the title song, the songwriting, especially, on this one is uneven and nowhere near as consistently strong as You Are Free. It's good and has great moments, but it's just not as overwhelmingly compelling. (Neile)

The first and last tracks are the best—it's a little slow in the middle. (tamar@u.washington.edu)


Jukebox

Release info:

2008—Matador Records—OLE 793-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Chan Marshall—vocals

Guest artists:

Erik Paparazzi—bass
Jim White—drums
Gregg Foreman—piano, organ
Judah Bauer—guitar
Spooner Oldham—piano, organ
Teenie Hodges—guitar
Larry McDonald—percussion
Dylan Willemsa—viola
Matt Sweeney—guitar

Comments:

Cat Power's second album of covers is uneven but still worth hearing. "Aretha, Sing One for Me" and especially "Don't Explain" are great. On the other hand, "Lord, Help the Poor & Needy" bores me silly. I'm not familiar with most of the original songs so I can't comment on them as covers. I do love what she did with "New York, New York" (you know the song, "Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today"). The rest of the album is dark, moody, heavily rock and blues influenced with an occasional hint of gospel. The first few times I listened I found it didn't really hold my attention, but I think it's more a matter that it's an album you have to be in the right mood for. I would recommend paying a little more for the special edition version because the bonus disc is excellent, maybe even better than the main disc. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Why does Cat Power do these amazing covers for tv commercials, which are never released, and then release a covers album with songs I don't like?? C'mon, Cat Power. You can do better than this! (lasherboy@gmail.com)


Sun

Release info:

2012—Matador Records—OLE-773-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Chan Marshall—vocals, all instruments except those listed below

Guest artists:

Iggy Pop—vocals (10)
Erik Paparazzi—bass (1, 3)
Judah Bauer—additional guitar (1, 3)
Jim White—drums (3)
Gregg Foreman—piano (3)

Produced by:

Chan Marshall

Comments:

The new Cat Power is brilliant. It will definitely be on my top of the year list. (Neile)

I liked it pretty well on first listen, and thought I'd probably enjoy hearing it again. I must say it has grown on me hugely on second listen, and I'm definitely going to be listening to it a few times more at least, probably quite a bit more. I'm listening on headphones this time and really appreciating details. The overall sound is pretty perfect for my current mood too I'm busy, working, getting stuff done. The music is a good accompaniment at the moment. Good energy and lots of stuff to keep my interest.
     Many listens later I am still really impressed by Sun—I love it! (Jessica Spurling)

I think it's one of her best. (valrichardson@igc.org)

I've heard this and am confident in saying that it and Fiona Apple are my top two albums of the year. If you loved You Are Free but were alienated by her blues tangent it will be especially enjoyable for you. (Katherine St. Asaph)

I love how the songs are so different but it all works as an album, and how I find new interesting things on each listen. It will definitely be on my best-of-the-year list. (JoAnn Whetsell)

One of the best albums of the year. (jjhanson@att.net, stjarnell@yahoo.com)


Further info:

Cat Power has a 2004 DVD/CD called Speaking For Trees.

Songs from her studio albums appear on several compilations and soundtracks including Juno (2008), V for Vendetta (2006), North Country (2005), and You Can Never Go Fast Enough (2003).

Songs only available on compilations include:

  • a cover of Bob Dylan's "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" for the I'm Not There soundtrack (2007)
  • a cover of Jesse Harris' "It's Alright to Fail" for the Hottest State soundtrack (2007)
  • a cover of Oasis' "Wonderwall" on Better Than the Original (2011)
Collaborations include:

  • "Do the Romp" with Entrance on the compilation Sunday Nights: The Songs of Junior Kimbrough (2005)
  • "I Love You (Me Either)" with Karen Elson on the compilation Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited (2006)
  • a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" with Rhythms Del Mundo on their album Classics (2009)
  • "Amazing Grace" with Dirty Delta Blues on Dark Was the Night (2009)


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for work on this entry.

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DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2014-04-27 21:01:12.
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