Cat Power’s Covers is a rich album for many moods

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cat energy
Photo: Mario Sorrenti

Covers are an integral part of the way music develops. As different musicians interpret the songs, they leave an imprint in the form of changing lyrics or a slightly different melody. Updates like this can change the essence of a song — or even radical covers, transform it — and at other times extract nuances that were previously unheard of.

In a career marked by dozens of transformative covers, Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, has done all of the above — and then some. She excels at digging into the emotional quicksand of each song to draw amazing themes and angles. Her low-key cheating 2000 film The Rolling Stones (I Can’t Get Satisfied) is a potent mixture of anxiety and longing, while the 2008 cover of James Brown & The Famous Flames “Lost Someone” is like a bittersweet flame song, And equal parts sadness and despair.

Most recently, her 2018 version of Rihanna’s song “Stay” stripped away the song she’s already longing for spare piano and dark, sad vocals. While the original voice sounds like an appeal to a lover, begging them to return, Marshall’s method is solitary venting, a performance dedicated solely to her own grief.

The goal of her wonderful new album, covers, appears to be documenting the shared history while strengthening the connection. “I Play All the Time,” Marshall wrote in her accompanying autobiography. covers. “[A]And it’s important for me to record them because that’s what my listeners and I get.”

to that end, covers– The third such group, after 2000 record covers and 2008 music boxOnce again he balances introspection with outward displays of collective emotion. Its slower, somber version of The Replacements “Here Comes A Regular” in particular sounds like a weeping eulogy on a past life, most notably the faulty line, “I used to live at home, now I’m staying at home.” By contrast, Marshall’s album opening takes on Frank Ocean’s “Bad Religion” style, changing the words slightly to describe a spontaneous moment of meaningful conversation. The cab driver character in the song becomes a confidant (“He said, ‘Thank God, Hallelujah. Little girl, you need freedom’) to restore oppression and sadness in the original tone.

As these two songs suggest, the album boasts Marshall’s usual choice of interesting and unexpected covers. This time, she curated an interesting and moody mix of modern pop, old country and classic rock, highlighted by featured songs (Bob Seger’s Against The Wind, Jackson Browne by “This Days”). Covered Living in the past) and more obscure options (“Pa Pa Power” by Dead Man’s Bones, the band featuring actor Ryan Gosling; Iggy Popp’s 1979 song “The Endless Sea”). Marshall also produced a file covers Recording Sessions, led by a band that includes longtime bassist Eric Paparazzi, and others.

In addition to providing a richer background to her sound, the album has a broader instrumental palette than her previous album, 2018 Minimal wanderer. ‘Unhate’ – A fresh look at her ‘hate’, from 2006 greatest—More pricier than the original, with a floating keyboard, dry rattling drums, and turbulent guitar. “I had A Dream Joe” is instantly recognizable as Nick Cave’s cover – everything bustling, ominous gothic blues – while Lana Del Rey’s “White Mustang” “White Mustang” is a husky, burning sun. after covers It also gives way to Marshall’s gentle twists: “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” to Kitty Wells exudes restrained jazz, while “Pair of Brown Eyes” from The Pogues is a funeral hymn.

If there’s one line on both this album and Marshall’s previous covers, it’s reverence. “When I do covers, I feel such a responsibility to the artists I love—some I’ve never met before, some I haven’t,” Marshall says. This thinking helps ensure that familiar songs sound fresh. the covers The studio version of “These Days” is closer to Niko’s haunted and quiet translation, albeit with a bit more upbeat.

In contrast, Seeger’s “Against the Wind” looks more stormy covers. The original song is a simple and straightforward anthem about trying to find your place after realizing that you are no longer a good fit for where you are. Here, Marshall exploits the turbulent side of such change, as well as the oppressive forces described in the song’s lyrics. In its hands, “Against the Wind” is a secondary cautionary tale with a whirlwind piano, thrusting drums, and guitars on high gear. When she sings about seeking shelter “against the wind,” her pleas agonize and agonize, and solace already seems far away. However, covers As a whole it is quite the opposite: a comfortable acknowledgment of life’s complexities feels like a salve for uncertainty.

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