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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Cat Power
The Greatest
Matador Records

Rating: 8/10 ?


January 23, 2006
The skies in Chan Marshall's world are perpetually gray - not that she's seen anything but a glimpse of them through her tightly snapped shutters. Her albums are finely crafted to make depression sound beautiful, even downright alluring. Pairing the implied irony in the name of her previous effort, You Are Free, with the first, deep lyrical cut of The Greatest's title track - "Once I wanted to be the greatest," - we can easily see the same self-deprecating, smirking, exquisite brokenness we've come to love as our own.

However, despite lyrics of jealousy ("Empty Shell"), love-scorned suicide ("Islands") and abuse ("After It All"), The Greatest may just be the happiest of Cat Power's works to date. Her ability to draw out more and more truth with each album is indisputable, and on The Greatest, she reaches a golden landmark of self-assurance. Whereas every album up to You Are Free was marked by unsettledness, The Greatest feels comparably settled, maybe even a bit content.

While its tracks are not as magnetic or indelible as "He War" or "Cross Bones Style", its ability to move the spirit is perhaps greater. The album's laudable production at the hands of certified legends "Teenie" and "Flick" Hodges is surely front-and-center when taking in the disc's classic sound, but even such a remarkable foundation is somewhat overshadowed by the effortless patter of Marshall's unflinching introspection. The Greatest wants for nothing, but has more than it lets on.

There is spindly, shaky optimism to be found within the dark themes, from "Living Proof" to the Nebraska-inspired "Lived in Bars" to the reverent, admiring "Willie" and the downbeat, jeans-clad "Islands". Marshall's words may tell tales to wrench the heart, but her heart's resilience throws a wrench in the words. The closing track, "Love & Communication", shows this best: it begins with swarming, ominous tension but breaks ceremoniously free of its shackles, denouncing all doubt. Its hope - and the hope found within all of The Greatest - is better felt than heard, but it would take a dark, honey-tongued angel like Chan Marshall to express such a thing so perfectly.

Ever the omnipotent, world-worn interloper, Cat Power has always smiled; she knows more than each of her musical captors and has the courage to laugh at the predictability of injustice - this time is special because she smiles for herself. The skies may be gray for all eternity, but the windowpane is warm; The Greatest is the sound of her fingertips touching the glass for the first time.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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