Sounds like: The “sad girl” of teen films (see: Empire Records) if she expressed her angst less through black lipstick than by writing heartrendingly vulnerable music.
For fans of: PJ Harvey, Elliott Smith.
Latest release: This autumn’s Sun is Chan Marshall’s first proper record in six years and an exciting one for longtime Cat Power fans. It finds the singer-songwriter in a positive and creative place, experimenting with electronic instrumentation for the first time while maintaining her work’s essential exposed quality.
Why you care: Anyone who paid any attention to the underground in the late ’90s and aughts already knows why. For an entire generation of indie-music fans, Cat Power’s soul-baring, smoky-voiced music was the soundtrack for their own growing pains, and Marshall became a transcendent figure, at once pitied and admired. The songstress first drew notice in 1995 with her sparse and challenging debut album, Dear Sir, but she didn’t find a wider audience until 1998, with the still bleak but more accessible Moon Pix. From 2000’s The Covers Record, where she gave distinctive voice to songs by Michael Hurley and others, to 2006’s The Greatest, in which the native Southerner recorded in Memphis with a number of the city’s notable musicians, Marshall progressed toward a fuller, more soul- and blues-influenced sound. But then, at her career’s peak, she hit rock bottom, enduring well-publicized personal struggles and checking herself into a hospital for emotional problems and alcoholism. Fortunately, Marshall emerged months later an appreciably happier, healthier woman, recording another covers album in 2008 and returning to full force this year with an excellent collection of original material.
SEE IT: Cat Power plays Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., on Sunday, Nov. 4. 8 pm. $35 advance, $38 day of show. All ages.