Album Review: Cat Power – Wanderer

By Kwase Lane, Contributor
[Domino; 2018]
Rating: 7/10

Key Tracks: “You Get”, “Black”, “Me Voy”

On her tenth studio album, Wanderer, Cat Power is an artist, weaving notes like beautiful pigment onto a blank canvas. The artist, whose real name is Chan Marshall, is a master of her craft and has nothing to prove, and this album demonstrates that to a T. Wanderer doesn’t make a massive effort to catch your ear, but once it has its hooks in, there’s no removing them. Each word is infused with a certain aloofness, almost emulating the unconcerned beauty of a desert sunset.

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“You Get” is one of the few songs on Wanderer that offers the percussive heartbeat that many take for granted. This proves to be a non-issue as Marshall’s voice is alluring, even without a crashing drumline to bring you in rhythm. Yet, despite the gently rolling drum, the guitar remains the primary vehicle for keeping time. Marshall gracefully navigates the soundscape she’s created, dropping bold and accusatory lines without ever feeling overly-strident. “You Get” is an oasis of the familiar in the stripped back wonderland that is Wanderer. Just as soon as one could begin to tire of Marshall’s tranquil melodies, this track appears on the horizon, spurring her audience to journey further into the unknown.

On “Black”, Cat Power skillfully zigzags through topics like death and ending a relationship, forming a rich soundscape. Marshall finds a way to project meaning with her vocals in spite of the obtuse angle her lyrics take. The track is heaped with a very tired, worldly sadness, but the song carries the weight without a second thought. “Black” repeatedly evokes the image of an “Angel of Death,” all the while becoming more and more like this grim figure as the track continues. Ultimately, Cat Power’s introspective ramblings are overtaken by the dark chant, and the music gives way to a night-like silence.

Serving as a sort of answer to the impending dusk presented in “Black”, “Me Voy” is colored by a weary-yet-unbroken resolve. Marshall sings of her forthcoming exit from her present situation. “I am leaving / Me voy, me voy / Good is gone.” The main and backing vocals join each other in a delightfully-lilting promenade. The instruments take Marshall by the hand, but neither party seems to be leading the other down the path. The soft-spoken power of her words is not unlike being in a dark tunnel: her voice bounces off of the shadowy stone walls and forms a near-blinding star of light at its mouth.

Wanderer is an admirably-odd collection of slow, droning tracks. There’s not a lot to it, just a few boring songs that are better used as ambient background tracks for any other task that needs doing. Somehow, though, that assessment finds more and more ways to be wrong as you listen further on. The simplicity of Wanderer clears your mind and paints its blank walls with memories long gone or never even experienced. There’s not a lot to chew on, but it leaves listeners with plenty to digest. Each track begins to feel like walking into a brand-new world all before leaving it within the next five minutes. With every new listen, you become a pioneer heading west into the warm purple sunset with only Cat Power’s voice and her trusty guitar to keep you company.

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