Anonymous asked: why didn't you like the greatest?
the first time i heard cat power was when i blindly bought a copy of “myra lee” at a record store in minneapolis when i was like 17, despite having grown up in really rural areas and on farms i completely missed the true origin of the name and interpreted as some kind of cutesy anime thing. at the time it was some of the scariest music i’d ever heard - i had been into whitehouse for a little while, but whitehouse is deliberate, erudite music, it attacks on a completely different level than cat power. huge swaths of “myra lee” feel almost like a jandek record, this really pained, lonely howling female voice repeating phrases like “i’m not what you want” over and over again, like it legitimately frightened me, it was like watching video of a rape or something, there was a period where just looking at the CD case would make me shiver.
i think her voice is an extremely powerful thing and i think it’s more or less been the thing that’s consistently worked throughout the various incarnations of her career - like i dunno if there would ever be any point in hearing someone else sing “the colours and the kids” or “i don’t blame you”, you know? i kinda feel like a lot of the time, the emotional content of her music was coming from the way she sang songs, not the words, not the melodies, necessarily, not any of the instrumental stuff. that’s why she’s done so many covers, and that’s why some of her covers have done so well - even if she didn’t write the song, the way she sings ends up being the main attraction of the piece. people often use the exaggeration “well, she could sing the phone book and it would still be great” to gush about people like chan marshall, but in her case i mean it’s probably true. it’s not hard to imagine that maybe “names” from “you are free” was written as a response to such a dare.
i think “you are free” is basically a perfect record but i don’t really begrudge her not wanting to make those kinds of records anymore. i just feel like she’s musically in kind of a transitional place right now - i think one of the reasons “you are free” works so well is that there are so few distractions from the core major things that she’s good at. i remember reading anecdotes in interviews about how she refused to work with a producer, that she fought even the idea of having an engineer for a long time before finally agreeing to it. i think the lack of distractions was intentional - i think the stuff that record highlights is the stuff she wanted to highlight and that approach succeeded brilliantly. i think it’s a perfect summation of the absolute height of her ability when it comes to working in certain modes and making certain kinds of music.
i get why she wants to move on from that and i don’t resent her for not wanting to make more records like “you are free”, i mean it’s perfect, she doesn’t need to make anymore music like that, we’re lucky to have gotten an album as generous and beautiful as that one is. but the things that she’s tried to do since, i just don’t think she’s really nailed them yet. a lot of the best songs on “the greatest” just kind of feel like songs that could have been on “you are free” or “moon pix” but with more instruments and slicker production, and ultimately to me and i think to a lot of other people that just means more distractions. i think there’s a lot of stuff you need to do to make a pop record that she had never really been doing on her older records and i totally want to hear the cat power pop record and always enjoy and am interested in hearing her efforts to that end, i just think that so far they haven’t been as successful as her attempts to do whatever she was doing on “moon pix” and “you are free”