I've put off my review of Cat Power's CD The Greatest because it seems to call for more analysis than I feel qualified to give it. Despite its title, it's not a greatest hits collection, but it is one of the greatest CDs I've listened to in ages. Every time one of the tracks pops up in my random iTunes shuffle, I stop in my tracks.
I had never heard of Cat Power (AKA Chan Marshall) until Mark clued me in; he knows a lot about music and picked this CD as his #1 of 2006, so that made enough of an impression on me that I bought it without ever having heard a single song from it. Lucky for me (and him!), it wasn't a mistake. (If you are not as brave as I am, you can download the title song for free at Salon; while you're there, read the review.)
So what is it about this CD that works for me? First and foremost, it's her voice. Lush, dreamy, experienced, pain-filled, intense. The voice of the girl you are so relieved you didn't have to room with in college, because who knows what might have happened. But you feel kind of cool that you lived down the hall and got to know her a little.
To tell you the truth, I haven't paid as much attention to the lyrics as I probably should; it's hard to explain why or how, but I seem to just focus on the sound of the music—both her voice and the band. For this CD she assembled an impressive group of Memphis sessions-work veterans who really make the most of her songs. Some of the lyrics I have caught seem pretty depressing—no big surprise after learning a bit about her—but I look forward to listening more closely and getting even more out of this knockout CD.