A sense of promise has long surrounded Cat Power. Through all travails, through all the rough shows, her fans have stuck with her, because they knew she had incredible talent. Chan Marshall’s 10th album, Wanderer (Domino Recording), fulfills that promise, delivering everything she was always thought to be capable of, and more. Her husky, soulful voice imparting hard-earned wisdom, this album moves beyond the label of feminism to something more universal, a collection of songs about healing and finding one’s way in the world.
In addition to her work as an artist here, Marshall makes all the right choices as a producer. She masterfully sequences the songs, beginning with the prelude “Wanderer” and ending with epilogue “Wanderer/Exit.” Marshall knows exactly where she wants to takes her audience and, at the end of the album, the listener feels that they have gone on a journey. Remarkably, she makes Rihanna’s “Stay,” rearranged in her own style, fit in perfectly.
The arrangements on Wanderer favor folk, soul, and blues. Largely acoustic, doing away with too much production and instrumentation allows the most important here, Marshall’s voice, to take center stage. Soulful, husky, raspy, any number of words come to mind for it, but Marshall’s is simply breathtaking, gorgeous, with perfect inflection and crystal-clear diction.
The feminist label may attach to Wanderer, but that seems simplistic and an underselling of the content here. While the record contains a song called “Woman,” an empowerment anthem Marshall sings with Lana Del Rey, this only tells part of the story. The timely and timeless “Robbin Hood” addresses themes of inequality. Life and death, parents and children; it’s all here. After years as a Wanderer, Cat Power has made one of the best one of the best albums of the year.