Bewitching as Cat Power sounded on 2008 covers album Jukebox, it’s still a relief to hear her return to original material on Sun. It’s even more gratifying that Chan Marshall’s ninth album demonstrates urgency and variety—two components missing from 2006 Southern soul-fest The Greatest—while containing brutally vulnerable insights. (“Real life is ordinary/Sometimes you don’t want to live,” goes one jarring chorus.) Gone are the sparse guitars and plaintive vocals; in their place zooming keyboards and moody electronic beats (see: the title track’s Depeche Mode-like textures and the hip-hop-influenced “Peace and Love”). Sun effortlessly merges these digital textures with organic flourishes—“3,6,9” is piano boogie reminiscent of White Stripes; “Silent Machine” merges bluesy schoolyard chants with deconstructed electronic splotches and “Nothin’ but Time” conjures Screamadelica-era Primal Scream (or, alternately, Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” with a torch-song makeover). Fresh, enveloping and affecting, Sun is a welcome return to form.
Annie ZaleskiWed, Sep 5, 2012 (3:38 p.m.)