Cat Power - You Are Free
It's been a while but Chan Marshall is back with Cat Power and her proper follow-up to 1998's Moon Pix. Sure, her Covers Record was good but we have been craving more of Cat Power's original material. It was well worth the wait because You Are Free picks up nicely where Moon Pix left off. You Are Free catches up with a more mature Cat Power. Chan is able to express herself even more plaintively without resorting to too much at all in the way of accompaniment. The album title might be a reference for her fans to have no expectations of her. She is notorious for her unpredictable performances and gaps like this between albums. She is free after all. The music on You Are Free is infectious and I found that after each repeated listen I would grow fonder of Cat Power. My favorite track "Shaking Paper" is almost a march in the slow gait that it builds on but it lulls me in and keeps me there for the 4+ minutes. "Maybe Not" is a piano song that really brings out the beauty of her voice. Most of the tracks are very melancholic and lazy in Cat Power's delivery. Volume is rarely turned up and Chan's voice is basically a whisper in your ear for most of the album. It is a treat to have the talent to sing this quietly and still keep listeners interested. It is Chan's vocals that make Cat Power what it is. You Are Free may just kick aside Moon Pix for the Cat Power essential album.
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on 2007-03-06 paperslut Said:
It was late 2002 when a friend handed me this mixtape that had, apart from some Live and Better Than Ezra, this version of Oasis' Wonderwall by some woman. Now don't go "blasphemous!" on me, I didn't know better at the time. This acoustic recording, though of bootleg quality, made the Oasis hit seem thoroughly uplifting in a "smoking kills you, but so does gun running in Ethiopia" sort of way. It was like a Wonderwall reprise, only, on tonnes of Valium. Beautiful.
Under the moniker Cat Power, Chan Marshall has successfully managed to do something very few artists can claim to have done - stayed true. It sounds terribly cliche but Dear Sir could well have been her latest record. There has been the obvious progression as an artist - the slightly 'bigger' sound, the collaborations and all the frills that come with being one of the most popular indie rock ladies. But inherently, she's still the same woman who sang "Keep your guns home, help keep your momma safe". It's the reflection of someone who hasn't really given a fuck about trends, distortion and Fall Out Boy.
Released at the beginning of 2003, You Are Free made a louder statement about the state of music than anything could that year. It was simple, it didn't try too hard, it didn't have an album title with allthewordssmooshedtogether. With Dave Grohl on drums and Eddie Vedder backing on two songs, it was going to be good for most people regardless of what the songs were like. And as expected, it delivered there too.
Right from the lazy piano on I Don't Blame You to it suddenly growling on He War, she says everything Ani DiFranco would want to say and flings it at you with an almost Liz Phair-ish air of well, bluntness.
I Don't Blame You is a song for Kurt Cobain. She looks at him in disdain but finally understands with the title of the song. It's an enchanting start to an album that really is just that. Like at the end of the album when she sings "We can all be free" when the song is called Maybe Not. It's the mark of an artist at the peak of her skill when all she has to do is play four notes on a piano and sing a song that is unfailingly truthful and terribly real.
She can just as easily "punk up" her sound as she can mellow it down. Speak For Me and He War are shining examples of just how much range this lady has, and how reluctant anyone can be to press 'Next'.
The Greatest released in autumn 2006 was Marshall's predictably brilliant follow up to You Are Free. It was almost everything Cat Power, as its predecessor, but it saw the indie darling tiring. You Are Free saw her at her best.