Cat Power – The Wanderer
“Doctor said I was not my past, He said I was finally free”. The return of Chan Marshall after a six-year absence was one of the year’s greatest moments. And there were a few of those.
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
“I was just coastin’, never really goin’ anywhere, Caught up in a web, I was gettin’ kinda used to stayin’ there, And out of the blue, I fell for you”. Kacey Musgraves made the big time in 2018, but also managed to subvert it slightly when she was there. That’s a great trick.
Soccer Mommy – Clean
“And I knew when I met him, That he’s the one I want to be with, ‘Cause I can see him, Blossom in the future that I’m dreamin'”. Good old-fashioned indie guitar music from Soccer Mommy. And yet not a throwback sound. Good.
Snail Mail – Lush
“It took so long to know someone like you, And age in the dying sun, With only the vivid greens and blues”. Good old-fashioned indie guitar music from Snail Mail. And yet not a throwback sound. Good.
Jess Williamson – Cosmic Wink
“I could stay on the crest of the wave, In the sea of your love all my days”. The transformation of Jess Williamson’s music over the course of three albums has been revelatory. Cosmic folk, Texas-style.
In the scheme of things, some days are better than others. And this is a good day. Chan Marshall has announced a new album. It’s called Wanderer and it’s out in October. It’s been about 5 years since her last album. That’s a long time in any civilisation’s calendar. And there’s still some waiting to do, which is more than frustrating. But if the trailer is anything to go by, it’ll be well worth the wait. Personally, I can’t wait to hear that unique, amazing voice once again. Counting down the days.
This is a time of looking forward. To the familiar artists that will return. To the new artists that will be discovered. This year, like any other, comes with a wish list. Some albums will never materialise. Others will slightly disappoint. A few will remain life-long friends. Fingers crossed for the latter. In no particular order, apart from alphabetical, my 2018 wish list includes new releases by Alela Diane, Anäis Mitchell, Bill Callahan, Caitlin Harnett, Cat Power, East River Pipe, Field Report, First Aid Kit, Jacob Golden, Jenny Lewis, Jessica Pratt, Jim White, Jonathan Wilson, Laura Veirs, Lewis & Clarke, Pearl Charles, Phosphorescent, Pinegrove, Richard Edwards, The Delines, Vetiver, Wooden Shjips, Wye Oak and the artist formerly known as Young Man.
And yet, there is a special place in the 2018 wish list for a new album by Kramies (pronunciation to be determined). With rumours going back at least a couple of decades, there are unconfirmed reports that an album is finally on its way and that Ireland had some part to play in it. We wait with fingers crossed, though we have learned not to hold our breath. The hard way. In the meantime, here’s a wonderful feature by Shon Cobbs and his Behind The Scenes colleagues from Denver. It features Kramies answering questions and sometimes asking them too. Plus a lot of laughing.
Cat Power – Sun
All artists have to evolve. That was the problem with this year’s Beach House album. It sounded exactly like their last album, which was great. But, if they don’t move on next time, then we’ll lose interest. The greatest artists never stop evolving. Dylan being the archetypal musical shapeshifter and with a new manifestation soon to come. Some of the greatest artists develop split personalities, with two or more radically different musical styles coexisting and with the artist moving seamlessly from one to another. Neil Young and Ryan Adams are perfect examples. For her part, Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, has already evolved. The essential indieness of the early recordings bears little relation to the mature Delta Blues of The Greatest or Jukebox. Like all good artists, she evolved in a way that suited her style, her best qualities. And it almost goes without saying, but for Cat Power the greatest asset is that voice. Deep. Irresistible. The choice of tracks on Jukebox and the dense, steamy style in which they were played emphasised her voice. Intimate. Four years on from Jukebox Cat Power has evolved again. But, oh dear. This is an evolution that wouldn’t survive a process of musical natural selection. Banks of synths. Skittery electronic percussion. A cold, industrial sound that counteracts that warm, enveloping voice. Maybe it’s the songs. This time they’re self-penned. Perhaps there are Delta Blues versions in the vaults that sound fantastic. If so, let’s hear them. But, more likely, they’re just not strong enough. And the production does them, and, more importantly, her, no favours. Cat Power has evolved into a 21st century Annie Lennox. Great voice. Shame about the sound. It’s a pity that the Olympics are unlikely to return to Atlanta, Chan Marshall’s hometown, anytime soon. If so, she’d be sure to have a job in the closing ceremony on top of some or other wooden contraption being wheeled around the stadium singing her heart out. It’d probably look great, but no-one would remember the song.
Cat Power official site