February 20, 2003

The Cat's Meow

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Chan “Cat Power” Marshall is as enigmatic as indie rockers come. And that’s saying a lot. With a reputation for skipping out on shows and providing inquiring interviewers with non-sequiturs for answers, Chan (pronounced “Shawn”) has held a particular appeal for critics and fans alike since her melancholic album Moon Pix was released to critical acclaim in 1998. You Are Free is a 14-song gem that utilizes a variety of musical tricks previously unseen on her records while maintaining that lowly and timorous Louisiana drawl that has made her famous.

You Are Free begins with “I Don’t Blame You” a piano ballad that’s strongly reminiscent of her earlier work. As with “Colors and the Kids” and “Metal Heart,” stand-out songs from Moon Pix, it’s not necessarily what she’s singing that grabs you, but rather how she’s singing it. “I Don’t Blame You” has a clever and evocative chorus that’s composed of little more than one lyric layered over itself, while the piano maintains the rhythm underneath the vocals. It’s a bare-bones opening that would never work without Marshall’s breathy pipes.

“Free,” one of the strongest tracks on the album is a m