Cat Power: 'Sun' 

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There are a few things we've come to expect from Cat Power, indie rock's most reliably miserablist singer-songwriter this side of Elliott Smith. Suffice to say, when she caps her new electro-pop album with an 11-minute "I Wanna Live!" mantra ("Nothin' But Time") it's pretty goddamn shocking. But that's Sun, singer Chan Marshall's ninth full-length under the Cat Power moniker. It's a record that works hard to reflect its title, with warm washes of synths, bouncy drum loops, and (generally) upbeat lyrics all highlighting the, well, sunniness of it all. Once that initial glare wears off, Sun reveals itself a bit more clearly: an album evenly split between career highlights — the shimmering rave-up "Cherokee," the nursery-rhyme bounce of "3, 6, 9" and the patiently gorgeous centerpiece "Manhattan" — and interesting, if unmemorable, experiments. However, as far as career turnarounds go, Sun is as wonderfully executed as anyone could have imagined (certainly better than fellow lo-fi queen Liz Phair's ill-fated foray into similar territory). Marshall gives herself wholly to both her new sonic surroundings, with that creative openness tempered by just enough characteristic Cat Power cynicism to keep Sun grounded. It's a record that captures the sound and sentiment of a reinvigorated artist, clearly focused on a rising sun rather than one setting behind.

★★★★ (out of 5 stars)

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