Well, hello. I like this. Who are you again?
Apparently, Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, is an American singer-songwriter and this was her sixth album, her first original offering in five years after personal struggles including a drinking problem. Nasty. Psht, I just know it's a fantastic album. What do you expect from me, information?
You Are Free is a superb display of minimalism at its very best. Stripped down to its bare bones - nothing but vocals and either piano or acoustic guitar most of the time - it's simple, pure and utterly, utterly brilliant.
Yes, utterly, utterly. That utterly.
Free, which is arguably the best track on the album - God, it's good - shows how minimalism is not just a technique, or even a theme, but a total movement. It could be anthemic, an alternative indie anthem even, but almost every effort is made to avoid that happening. A beat comes in....then it stops. An electric guitar comes in....then it stops. They come back occasionally, but refuse to fit into the rhythm as they conventionally should. It's odd, but wonderful.
Musically, Werewolf is fuller but similarly confident, and very good for that precise reason - but lyrically must be where Marshall thinks she shines, seeing as that's what she's promoting by having refrained supporting melodies (the Bob Dylan method). Fortunately for her, she's good enough to get away with it. Babydoll is a lyrical cracker; so too, I Don't Blame You.
You Are Free's most talked-about song, Names, could fall into the territory of push-your-buttons-make-you-cry-look-at-me-I'm-so-sly, but there's a true tenderness beneath the attention-grabbing tragedy:
His name was Perry
He had a learning difficulty
His father was a very mean man
His father burned his skin
His father sent him to his death
He was 10 years old
The reason, I think, is a clever contrast in how much she reveals. Some of the obvious miserablism is avoided, and it's a combination of subtlety and bluntness that makes this the best moment:
Her name was Sheryl
Black hair like an electric space
She would pretty-paint my face
She was a very good friend
Her father would come to her in the night
She was 12 years old
But personally, I love the whole sound of the album. Her voice, the production, the minimalism....it's gorgeous. Mmm.