With a measured, faux-Latin piano riff, “Ruin” offers up an expressive mix of the peppy and the fierce. Even in this upbeat, quasi-pop-like setting, Cat Power can’t take the smoke and fire from her voice; as a matter of a fact, one might argue that the voice is all the more effective in this new (for her) environment. The elusive lyrics augment her voice’s capacity to haunt—in particular the chorus’s incantation of far-flung cities and countries.
The music, meanwhile, is frisky but not frivolous. Grounded in that rhythmic riff, Power spends a lot of time in between the beat; even the emphatic choral climax only aligns with the beat for the conclusion, the words “sitting on a ruin”—which is what gives it its intriguing oomph. And for me, at least, that scratchy, slashing guitar sound is a revelation. That may be my own issue, as I have a personal disinclination for the slow, reverby, blues-guitar-y sound to which she previously defaulted. And yeah, I know, everyone was supposed to have loved that. I like this better.
Power—born Charlyn Marshall; known as Chan; pronounced “Shawn”—has not released an album of original material since her indie “mainstream” breakthrough, The Greatest, ten years into her recording career, in 2006. (There was a covers album in 2008 and a covers EP the following year.) Her backstory involves far too much angst and difficulty for me to get into here. You can look it up if interested. “Ruin” is the first song made available from her long-awaited new album, Sun, which is scheduled for a September release on Matador Records. MP3 via Matador. Thanks to Largehearted Boy for the head’s up.
photo credit: Nils Bernstein (via http://www.thestoolpigeon.co.uk)