There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
With a voice somewhere in the emotional (though not technical) range of Tim Buckley and Billie Holiday, Cat Power’s guitarist/songwriter Chan Marshall channels a staggering amount of pain into her delivery. Lyrically, Marshall mixes nightmarish metaphor and Raymond Carverlike clarity into a turbulent stream-of-emotion. On “Water & Air,” Marshall declares, “Last night there was a party/I could not go/I walked around and I thought about it all night long,” before her mind becomes clouded with self-abuse because she’s too shy and too psychologically tortured to make the small talk required. The wandering continues until she begins to picture herself “…at the bottom of the river/Below the dark water/The devil all around.” On most tracks, Marshall favors scrappy arpeggios and repetition, which evoke the obsessions of a depressive mind, as a foundation for her tales of mental terror. But the wiry down-strumming on “Nude as the News” provides an appropriately tense backdrop as Marshall sings, “I still have a flame gun/For the cute ones/To burn out all your tricks.” And “They Tell Me” is almost a straight blues tune, but with Marshall rocking back and forth between two notes as if “yes” and “no” are indecisively racing around her skull. Marshall is essentially a romantic, simultaneously wanting to confess and recoil, expose and run away. Like her past two records, What Would the Community Think? is an exhausting, numbing guide through Marshall’s soul. Truly the blues.—Christopher Porter
Cat Power plays the Black Cat Sept. 18.