Cat Power floats into Boston Royale


When Cat Power’s national tour wandered to the Boston Royale last Tuesday, it came with that quiet force that Chan Marshall is renowned for. The Royale’s easy space, aglow in a soft purple haze, felt like the perfectly adequate destination for her Boston tour stop.

Cat Power is currently touring her 10th studio album Wanderer, which is her first album released since Sun in 2012. This return from her musical hiatus was not with a bang, but rather with a more characteristic lure. Wanderer consists of eleven tracks, almost all written by Chan Marshall herself (with the exception of "Stay", a Rihanna hit from 2012). The fourth track on the album, "Woman", features Lana Del Rey– this collab seemed to make sense, and the powerhouse duet that resulted just proves that truth. The rest of the songs flow easily from one to the next, visiting themes from loneliness to affirmation and sounding both eerie and lovely.

Not to say that the album lacks emotional or lyrical diversity– in fact, the opposite. The performance seemed to contain bits of, well, everything. From humming pauses to deep waves of sound, a guitar which sometimes evoked a quivering anxiety to vocal notes which made audience members, for some inexplicable reason, all stand on tip-toe.

What blends all of this music together is not its monotony, but rather the fact that the sound seems to be a subdued sampling of Cat Power’s past works. She revisits old themes and past sounds, but with wisdom and perspective that wasn’t there before. The aptly named album says what it needs to say– it Wanders– and leaves the unnamed parts of the musical journey for artist and audience to flesh out together. This seems to be a recurring theme with Cat Power, who seems to favor a simple integrity. She trusts that her music can stand, unadorned, on its own. And she trusts that she, as a musician, can facilitate the connection between her music and her audience with as minimal performance as will do her music justice.

The lyrics she sings are just as much about the way she sings them, letting the phrases catch in her throat, on her lips, in the air, in our ears. She sings not ostentatiously but, just like her venue and performance, just enough for the audience to appreciate the music– and the musician– for exactly what it is. I appreciate most of all Cat Power’s unpretentiousness, her ability to let her music– voice, lyrics, and instrumentation– come to its own, allowing the artist herself to be the agent through which these forces blend together.

Maya Levine is a DJ on Record Hospital.