If you’re anywhere non-tropical, it’s most likely shitty and cold outside. NYC, I feel you homie. Chicago has enough snow to film a Scarface sequel. Anyway, what a better album for Be Kind Rewind than Cat Power’s 2006 The Greatest? When one is in dire need of a soundtrack to snowfall, they need look no further.
Cat Power brings her cold, dying heart along for the ride on The Greatest, her seventh studio album. She has countless strong albums (see: Jukebox), but The Greatest is her……greatest. That joke wasn’t funny when her album dropped on January 20, 2006 and it isn’t funny now. The Greatest is her statement to the world. The opus to be examined during sweater season. My mother refers to her winter coat as a sleeping bag. Indiana stay frozen.
Self-titled track “The Greatest” begins the power LP, showcasing a woman full of reflective emotion. Put her in front of a piano, call up a friend who can quietly play drums, and you have a classic. But the album is not just a pretty voice with catchy arrangements. Some of her lyrics on The Greatest are obverwhelmingly beautiful, too. Some of the best around. “Lived in Bars”, as expected, deals with alcoholism and floating through the early nights. “We’ve lived in bars and danced on tables. Hotel, streets and ships that sail. We swim with sharks and fly with aeroplanes in the air.” The highs and the lows. The greatest.
Cat Power has that soulstress voice that resonates for weeks. Toe-tapping always with a piano to keep everything from getting too out of hand. Instruments come and go, but her voice and the keys never die. An acoustic guitar rarely takes a breather. The holidays are perfect for albums like this. Amy Winehouse. Adele. Even Bon Iver. Fleet Foxes, that’s too obvious. Whatever happened to Sufjan Stevens?
With the fireside tales and soul elements of Norah Jones, Cat Power also takes from country twang styles mastered so well by artists like Gillian Welch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quvoI4bGXp4). Am I the first person to reference Norah Jones and Gillian Welch on this blog (in the same sentence)?
The Greatest deals with heartbreak, with hangovers and regrets. It deals with coming and going, losing relevance in a world that worships the famous and the wealthy. It’s your typical 2006. On “Islands”, she deals with some waterfall tears and bleeding heartaches. “I want to rule the islands and I want to rule the sea, but if you’re not coming back, I will sleep eternally.” Directly following “Islands”, she transitions into one piano bar of a whiskey track, “After it All”, where Cat Power drinks it all away. Such is the love rollercoaster. The Ohio Players knew more than any of us. Seriously, though, while certain tracks are stripped down and whispered (“The Moon”), other tracks contain the entire Memphis Rhythm Band, as well as string arrangements. Like I said, highs and lows. Love. Rollercoaster.
Take a step away from hip-hop for a day or two. Leave the world of doom metal for an afternoon. Blow a kiss goodbye at acid house for an evening. Take all of your musical preferences and throw them out the window. Listen to Cat Power. Give her your full attention for 42 minutes. It’s okay, you can look out the window, but only if it is snowing. If it’s not snowing, you need to be doing one of these activities: crocheting, rocking in a rocking chair that was passed down from an older family member, trying on cowboy boots, drawing a still life, playing sudoku, making sweet, sweet, sweet, passionate love somewhere in public.
“The moon is not only beautiful, it is so far away. The moon is not only ice cold, it is here to stay.”- neonpajamas