Chan Marshall’s on the rebound. Sun, the Georgia native’s first album of new Cat Power songs since her Memphis-steeped 2006 set, The Greatest, arrives on the heels of a relatively public breakup with Giovanni Ribisi, with whom she was involved for several years. That doesn’t mean it’s a breakup album—most of the disc was recorded before they split—but it could be misinterpreted as one.
Like their relationship, Sun is flawed. Marshall’s voice has been over-layered into a thick web to hold a mass of self-help clichés, weighing down a record that already feels artificial (it was mixed with Philippe Zdar, half of French house duo Cassius). That said, Sun has its moments. “Ruin,” the closest thing to classic Cat Power, rides a catchy piano loop, though the blues-guitar stabs and disco bass feel foreign. Marshall’s most powerful when she’s confessional, but this feels superficial, even if her Southern lilt makes verses like “You’ve got a right / You’re a human being” go down easier.
Rallying cries like that may go over better in a big room like the Riv, and Marshall is betting on it. She’s assembled a new band (including the Delta 72’s Gregg Foreman and former We Ragazzi drummer Alianna Kalaba) and beefed up her show, the implication being that the notorious meltdowns that once characterized her live sets are a thing of the past. That’s a promising thing considering Marshall remains one of pop music’s most captivating voices, even if Sun doesn’t shine as bright as previous efforts.