Author Topic: "Slacker Divas" Beth & Chan  (Read 3926 times)

Bags

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"Slacker Divas" Beth & Chan
« on: January 15, 2006, 02:05:00 am »
January 15, 2006
 The Slacker Divas' 10th Anniversary Gift
 By BEN RATLIFF, The New York Times
 
 A STEP down from the platform of great female singers of exultation - Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Beyonc√© - and soon you encounter the sad slacker divas.
 
 Chan Marshall, who records under the name Cat Power, and Beth Orton, are among the best. Both have similar-sounding, slouchy-beautiful, middle-range voices. Both are about 10 years into their careers. Each has an exceptional new album: "The Greatest" by Ms. Marshall (Matador Records), which comes out next week, and Ms. Orton's "Comfort of Strangers" (Astralwerks), to be released Feb. 7. In both cases, the artists have changed bands, changed sounds and dropped some of their pretenses, though luckily for us, not all of them. In both cases, these albums are the best work of their lives.
 
 Chan Marshall is the rare female pop singer who hides her own attractiveness. She has a large audience by the standards of indie rock, though no one could accuse her of being popular. Ms. Marshall started playing guitar at 19, formed Cat Power when she was 20, and in 1995, at 22, made an EP as a trio with the guitarist Tim Foljahn and Sonic Youth's drummer, Steve Shelley, called "Dear Sir."
 
 Hers was a hurt, disembodied, voice, operating on lulling frequencies over draggy tempos, like old Neil Young without the sense of direction. She sang about being all jammed up inside, about counterintuition, things adding up to nothing. (Consequently, she found a devoted audience among college-aged listeners.) She didn't convey defiance or rejuvenation or youthful suffering. She just sounded like she was blankly persevering.
 
 Her songs seemed to ignore linear time. They could be beautiful for a minute, and then fall off the aesthetic grid, like music from some dim point in the future, after there had ceased to be any point in making music.
 
 There is no shortage of anecdotes about disastrous Cat Power shows. At times she hasn't been able, or willing, to start or finish more than a couple of songs. She plays with her hair, tells feeble jokes and lapses into embarrassing silences. Finally, it all resembles a performance in front of a mirror in a child's bedroom, and last too long to seem accidental. At the end of one memorable show, she apologized, profusely and too contritely, as if the audience might form a line and personally forgive her.
 
 Natural, manipulative, naked, pretentious; too much ego, or not enough; a beautiful voice that is at times ineptly handled; a complex series of beginnings that never got off the ground; the sense of being at least one paradigm ahead of the audience, and of being infantile at the same time: the logic at work gets revealed slowly.
 
 It's a spectacularly difficult posture to keep interesting. But Ms. Marshall has grown. Her first full album, "What Would the Community Think," was a brittle but workable blueprint; on "Moon Pix," from 1998, her voice became more authoritative, and members of the Australian group the Dirty Three added a seasick sound. "The Covers Record," all interpretations of other people's music, sounded monochromatic, but her song choices were not: Lou Reed, the swamp-pop anthem "Sea of Love," the traditional folk songs "Kingsport Town" and "Salty Dog."
 
 By 2003, she was recording with actual rock stars (Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins from Foo Fighters). The rhythm grew a little more controlled. But the songs remained stark and intractable; her records remained places where sloppiness and lethargy could be noble. She was floating in a world of no solutions, still waging a war against musical development and easy explication.
 
 "They said you were the best/ but then they were only kids," she sang over beginner piano chords in "I Don't Blame You," directed sympathetically at an unhappy rock star.
 
 "Just because they knew your name
 doesn't mean they knew from where you came
 what a sad trick you thought
 that you had to play
 but I don't blame you
 they never owned it
 and you never owed it to them
 anyway."
 
 AROUND the time of Cat Power's first album, Beth Orton formed a band. Six feet tall and bashful-looking, she had come into music in the early 1990's through the gates of English electronica; one of her early producers was William Orbit, who would later make Madonna's techno album "Ray of Light." But from the start, Ms. Orton also expressed a reverent connection to hippie-ish folk singers a generation older.
 
 By 1997, with the help of the producer Victor Van Vugt, she had realized her sound, an equal mix of folk and electronics. Her first album, "Trailer Park," contained dazzling stretches in which she blithely glided through her words in a reedy, tired but earnest voice. It was a delicate project.
 
 A coincidental development all but smothered it: at just that moment, that sound - acoustic instruments woven into larger orchestrations of strings and electronic noises and mild DJ techniques - became the sound of high-end commerce, the acceptable and unavoidable background for pricey cafes and boutiques. Soon the Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto made a popular album with the same blend of roots and electronics, "Tanto Tempo," and Sade made the soft rhythm-and-blues version, "Lovers Rock."
 
 Ms. Orton's sound wasn't special anymore. By "Daybreaker," in 2003, she was being overtaken by modish production techniques, and her voice started to sound poky. (The album was a mild chart success in England, and had some radio play here on Triple-A radio - short for the Adult Album Alternative format - between Alison Krauss and Norah Jones.) Live, playing with a tight band that included cello, violin and acoustic bass, she could still be impressive. But her records became shinier, aimed at club kids and the charts, much more fickle targets than Ms. Marshall's fans.
 
 CHAN MARSHALL IS NOW 33, Beth Orton 35. Their audiences are beginning to age. It's pop's version of a midlife crisis, and it comes early; these days, indie-pop is only slightly less forgiving than the big time. A provocateur who no longer provokes is an embarrassment, Triple-A radio is a benign bore, and the very thought of adult-contemporary anything freezes the blood. But both have found ways to adapt to those audiences, and it wasn't sincerity. (They deserve more credit than that.) They did it by identifying what their music really is, then changing the outer layer and keeping the core.
 
 Ms. Marshall's album, "The Greatest," was made in Memphis, and includes local musicians (such as the brothers Teenie and Leroy Hodges, guitarist and bassist from Al Green's records through the early 1970's) assembled with the help of Robert Gordon, the Memphis music historian. About a third of the album vaguely invokes the spare, seductive grooves of the soul records conjured there by the producer Willie Mitchell. For the rest, Ms. Marshall brings the Memphis musicians to her torpid, inert world.
 
 The title song begins the album gorgeously: a poem about frustrated ambition, told through the story of a boxer, with glittering guitar chords, strings that quote "Moon River," and a slow drum rhythm.
 
 "Once I wanted to be the greatest," she sings. "Two fists of solid rock/ with brains that could explain/ any feeling." But something happens to the boxer: those brains, that lucidity, become smothered. "Then came the rush of the flood," it continues, over rest-riddled, backwards-sounding bass lines. "Stars of night turned deep to dust." Its potency lies not just in the music, but the hint of its possible truth, the suggestion that Ms. Marshall's erratic run has been a kind of long-haul training regimen - or that underneath each weird, baleful gesture lies a desire to be incontestably great.
 
 "Could We," a few tracks later, almost attains the same level, tied to a serene groove, with Teenie Hodges sliding and fluttering a single guitar chord on the fourth beat of each bar. But something's wrong: there's no bridge, no modulation. By the fourth verse, it grows boring. Welcome to Cat Power.
 
 "Comfort of Strangers," sounds more docile, but represents a deeper change, almost a reversal, and puts Ms. Orton's skill as a songwriter to the front of the picture. It has a live-in-the-studio sound, achieved with mostly only three people: Ms. Orton; Jim O'Rourke, the record's producer, on bass and keyboards; and Tim Barnes on drums. Unlike her previous records, there are no echoey, whooshing noises, no twinkling samples. Instead, there is just natural fidelity, the sound of the room, a handclap, an organ chord in the corner of the song. The album is as direct an expression of Ms. Orton's songwriting style as she has made; warm and concise, it has found perfection in its reduced gestures. It's a beautiful record, and basically antichic.
 
 Ms. Orton has a trackable sense of ethics and emotions, generally pointing toward redemption, through love or the lack of it. "Love love love will make a truth from a lie," she sings on "Rectify"; "I don't want to live how I don't want to die/ so give me one kiss to build a dream on/ gonna stay with me through the changing seasons." Or she absorbs something bitter, without complaining much: "I think I'm gonna cry/ but I'm gonna laugh about it all in time," she sings in "Shopping Trolley," one rave-up on a generally quiet record.
 
 In each album, you hear an artist finding effective ways to keep moving. These aren't really going-back-to-the-roots records per se. By the end of "The Greatest," Memphis soul is a red herring, and "Comfort of Strangers" doesn't try to summon Ms. Orton's folk heroes. Rather, both artists do something smarter and more basic: they put their trust in a coherent band sound, the most fundamental and sometimes the most overlooked quality of good pop. And in both, that reflects a maturity worth waiting for.
 
  <img src="http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2006/01/11/arts/ratl.2.184.jpg" alt=" - " />
 Beth Orton
 
      <img src="http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2006/01/15/arts/ratl.1.583.1.jpg" alt=" - " />  Chan Marshall, who records under the name Cat Power, has recorded one of her best albums yet.

HoyaSaxa03

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Re: "Slacker Divas" Beth & Chan
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2006, 09:07:00 pm »
chan marshall is HOT
(o|o)

JohnnyBaconbitz

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Re: "Slacker Divas" Beth & Chan
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2006, 10:34:00 am »
Chan Marshall is insanely hot...she blows my mind.

Darth Ed

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Re: "Slacker Divas" Beth & Chan
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2006, 01:23:00 am »
I like Beth Orton, but I'm not familiar with Chan Marshall....
 
 Orton's 2002 concert at the 9:30 Club was exceptional. It was the last date on the "Daybreaker" tour, I think, and she clearly didn't want the tour to end. I think she must have played like five encores. I'll be at her upcoming 9:30 Club show for sure.

Re: "Slacker Divas" Beth & Chan
« Reply #4 on: January 18, 2006, 10:04:00 am »
Neither Chan nor Beth are hot to me...
 
 Though Beth's albums make for a pleasant listen.

HoyaSaxa03

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Re: "Slacker Divas" Beth & Chan
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2006, 12:54:00 pm »
Quote
Originally posted by Charlie Nakatestes, Japanese Golfer:
  Neither Chan nor Beth are hot to me...
 
i'm not a huge beth orton fan, but you're crazy if you don't think chan is hot:
 
   <img src="http://www.theage.com.au/ffximage/2004/06/17/cat_power.jpg" alt=" - " />
   <img src="http://www.nogoodgolfers.blogger.com.br/5.jpg" alt=" - " />
   <img src="http://www.sentireascoltare.com/CriticaMusicale/Monografie/catpower/catpower.jpg" alt=" - " />
(o|o)

Re: "Slacker Divas" Beth & Chan
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2006, 02:25:00 pm »
A good photographer and makeup artist can make any plain looking chick hot these days. Still, those pictures do nothing for me.
 
 Rachel Weisz and Kate Winslet, they're hot.
 
 
Quote
Originally posted by HoyaParanoia:
   
Quote
Originally posted by Charlie Nakatestes, Japanese Golfer:
  Neither Chan nor Beth are hot to me...
 
i'm not a huge beth orton fan, but you're crazy if you don't think chan is hot:
 
    <img src="http://www.theage.com.au/ffximage/2004/06/17/cat_power.jpg" alt=" - " />
    <img src="http://www.nogoodgolfers.blogger.com.br/5.jpg" alt=" - " />
    <img src="http://www.sentireascoltare.com/CriticaMusicale/Monografie/catpower/catpower.jpg" alt=" - " /> [/b]

vansmack

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Re: "Slacker Divas" Beth & Chan
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2006, 02:32:00 pm »
I'd put her in the cute category, but probably not the hot category.
27>34

Re: "Slacker Divas" Beth & Chan
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2006, 02:41:00 pm »
41
 
   
Quote
Originally posted by vansmack:
  I'd put her in the cute category, but probably not the hot category.

HoyaSaxa03

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Re: "Slacker Divas" Beth & Chan
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2006, 03:06:00 pm »
check her out here
(o|o)

HoyaSaxa03

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Re: "Slacker Divas" Beth & Chan
« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2006, 03:12:00 pm »
Quote
Originally posted by Charlie Nakatestes, Japanese Golfer:
  Rachel Weisz and Kate Winslet, they're hot.
 
i'd usually agree with Rachel Weisz, but did you see her at the golden globes?  she looked really weird
(o|o)

Re: "Slacker Divas" Beth & Chan
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2006, 03:15:00 pm »
Ok, i'll give her a "cute", like Vansmack.
 
 She's wearing a baggy black smock. I'd have to see a bit of skin, or at least something form fitting, to ascertain "hotness."  And can't say Id pick her face out as "hot" in a crowded room.
 
 But that's ok. It's good that you like her. But don't say it too loud, you might start to annoy your significant other.
 
 
Quote
Originally posted by HoyaParanoia:
  check her out here