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Equally Endorsed: An LP Review of CAT POWER'S "SUN"

Cat Power Shines with Sun

   With just one listen, you'll know why Cat Power's new album Sun is already on its way to becoming a modern classic. Chan Marshall, who is essentially all of Cat Power (the liner notes read: "All songs by: Cat Power / All Instruments: Chan Marshall") writes fully realized songs with a strong control over her sound. 2006's masterpiece The Greatest was a stripped down affair with retro stylings, but was bigger and more expansive than nearly anything of that year. Marshall does include some guest musicians on two tracks, ample engineers, and a brilliant guest spot of Iggy Pop reprising David Bowie in his signature song "We Could Be Heroes" in "Nothing But Time"; she has crafted a highly textured album more reminiscent of Blonde Redhead's later career than Cat Power's early work.

   Like all great albums, Sun explodes with three forward moving tracks ("Cherokee" and "Ruin" could both easily be huge songs this year) and then ends more down-tempo with two of the best songs on the LP: "Nothing But Time" and "Peace & Love". Don't be fooled; however, Marshall keeps us moving through the whole work. If radio meant anything anymore, any track could be featured - to great acclaim - as a single. I suspect the wonderful "Manhattan" may ultimately find itself as the song which fully cements itself into our nation's psyche.Cat Power in Hieroglyphics

   What's funny, is Marshall has never been the most accomplished lyricist. Her licks aren't memorable enough to be immediately recalled, but her sound is unmistakable. Now, with Sun, Cat Power's previous impeccable timbre of guitar to piano and beautifully restrained percussion has been updated with extensive employment of digital drum tracks and surprisingly superb use of auto-tune. Sun sounds current and contemporary, but the songs feel like they could be from anytime, a high complement. An older generation could understand it - there's an intrinsic toe-tapping to it - nor do I expect it to become dated quickly. The album stands strong, shining all the way through.

Sun Record Sleeves   If you can still get your hands on one, I recommend purchasing the Limited Edition LP. While I haven't directly compared it to the standard issue - which has completely different artwork - this is a fabulous package. In a beautiful glossy black and overlaid with gold, the LP is an example of minimal design. Small flourishes and the best materials make the album's quality apparent right away. The vinyl themselves are clear - something this writer hasn't come across before - are really fun to look through. If you have an interesting platter, Sun should look good spinning around it. The scheme extends to the inside with gold on black. We're treated to Cat Power and the track names in hieroglyphics, a very strange decision since nothing else about the record seems to hint at all to an Egyptian connection, but it succeeds in a very cryptic way, adding mystery to the object. A coupon for a free digital download is included by Matador Records and an additional 7" ("Back In the Days (For Christopher Wallace)" b/w "Fire") as well. Both songs on the 7" are less produced than Sun, but exist more in the realm of much of Cat Power's earlier work. The tracks are great for the collector, but outshone by the LP proper, although nothing will outshine the reflective gold surface of the 7" sleeve. Cat Power is embossed in hieroglyphics on the sturdy sleeve paper that is black on the inside, making it look really sharp.The Golden 7" "Back In the Days"

   I have a feeling I'll be listening to this album pretty frequently for the next few months and won't be surprised to see this included in many 'Best Of...' lists at the end of the year. Just as with The Greatest, this record is also going to endear itself to the collector side of me with its fantastic layout and design, beckoning me to take it off the shelf and give it a spin for years to come. Much of Cat Power's catalogue has aged well with time, but none has been so tasty as Sun from the first sip.

 

 

Equally Updated: Two New Projects On the Rise - 'Kindling: A Survey of the American West' and 'Heart of Chicago'

   Equally Empty Expeditions R E P O R T S

There's a lot of exciting things happening here at equally empty. First off, we'll be changing platforms in the next week. Squarespace has completely overhauled the way they do business, which is good for you, my reader, because it will enable features on our end to more practically handle issues as widespread and as simple as better incorporating Read More... elements, styling and organizing of photographs and their galleries, and adding Facebook 'Like" and Google '+1' elements. While we are very excited about these developments it also means added and unexpected work on this end. So, if things slow down a moment - no fear - we are just mired in migrating our system to a new platform.

   That said, we will be having a Report on the Dan Deacon concert this Saturday at The Cobra Lounge in Chicago. He's one of our favorite artists, and it is going to be a really fun evening. If you'd like to join the fun, follow the above link and get ya self a ticket.

Upcoming Projects:

   I'd also like to take this opportunity to introduce two upcoming projects - one just beginning, the other blossoming - that you'll begin to see more of in both gallery shows and photo zines. The first I'd like to introduce has been mentioned in this blog before. Our first Equally Empty Expedition, Felissia and I have returned from our explorations and have been hard at work synthesizing our collections. You'll be regularly seeing updates on Kindling: A Survey of the American West as we progress. The following photographs are a mere glimpse into the breadth of culture and geography studied by the team. All photographs are by m.e.s. (Michael Egon Schiele).

St. Croix River | Afton State Park, MN | 2012

 

McCleod, ND | Federal Grasslands | 2012

 

Black Rock Desert, NV | 2012

 

Bison | Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND | 2012

 

Pretty cool, huh? I'd also like to present the beginnings of a project about the community in Chicago I live, Pilsen. The working title for the project is 'Heart of Chicago' for the name of a small geographical section of the neighborhood. Both 'Heart of Chicago' and 'Kindling: A Survey of the American West' are planned to be published as small artbooks and hopefully accompanied by gallery shows. You will most definitely be updated. Thanks for looking!

 

Freight | 13th & Damen | Chicago, IL | 2012

 

Under Highway - 55 | Chicago, IL | 2012

 

Tracks | Chicago, IL | 2012

 

Chicago, IL | 2012

 

View from Highway 55 & Damen | Chicago, IL | 2012

Poetry: "epochs of time"

 

 

poems come
and poets go
art is always modern
these towns keep changing their names
but the mountains
and the seas
steadfastly remain
they have seen the world created
will see its demise
do our queries unspoken
really go deaf and unanswered
to the wind's unconscious replies?
an echo resounding
proof the world is providing
it's our duty
to navigate the tide.
the mountains will tell you
their rocks have a wisdom
built upon epochs of time.

 

...m.e.s. .aug.16.2012...

Equally Cinematic: Why the F*** Is Moonrise Kingdom in Limited Release?

   Last night was the Chicago area premier of Wes Anderson's highly anticipated new flick Moonrise Kingdom. My sweetheart and I motored up 30 minutes north to Evanston where one of the three theaters in the Chicago-land area are showing the film. As ridiculous as it may sound, the Oscar nominated writer/director Wes Anderson - whom made somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000,000 on his career-making movie The Royal Tenenbaums - must have a limited release for his new film that includes an all-star cast including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and the more-myth-than-man Bill Murray. But all those actors play second fiddle to the leading duo of twelve-year-olds Jared Gilman (Sam Shakusky) and Kara Hayward (Suzy Bishop) and The Life Aquatic - which followed The Royal Tenenbaums - lost nearly $20 million before erasing some of that ground through international screenings and DVD sales. Since then, Wes Anderson's movies have followed a similar trend, the rarely seen lost treasure The Darjeeling Limited barely making $17,000,000 despite not being shown anywhere and the amazing Fantastic Mr. Fox barely eking out $6 million. So maybe the numbers do support the decision to have a limited release, and numbers don't lie, right?

   Moonrise Kingdom is the love story of the orphaned and "emotionally unstable" Khaki Scout Sam Shakusky and the brooding and darkly commanding Suzy Bishop. Banished by their peer groups, these two child-lovers resolve to run away together into the New Penzance Island wilderness. A search party is organized by Scout Master Ward (Norton) and Police Capt. Sharp (Willis) for the runaways as a looming storm approaches and trouble mounts. Moonrise Kingdom is funny and awkwardly sweet, sharing in some respects more with Fantastic Mr. Fox than Wes Anderson's other films. Our two main characters are 12 years old and we never really leave their sphere, making the movie a fantasy for not only being a period-piece of the 1960s, but as for bringing us back to the confusing time of adolescence. And, of course, the movie is wonderfully musically curated; mostly by Hank Willimas and Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.

   All this is to say that while Moonrise Kingdom is particularly Wes Anderson in its eccentricity and commanding presence of mood and style, it is not weird enough to turn off the general movie-viewing public as The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou did. In many respects, Moonrise Kingdom fits as an archetypal summer film - caught up in the loss of innocence for two young lovers, centered around the adventures of two runaways and a summer camp, both whimsical and funny - so much so, that you might argue the film's marketability to become a blockbuster more than its potential to become a cult-classic. Hell, it has Bruce Willis in it! Everyone loves Bruce Willis, right?

   Interestingly enough, as the years have happened, Wes Anderson has added more cachet to his name. Those of us who grew up on and loved Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums have become older and in some cases the taste-makers of our society which has subtely shifted to reflect this, as does every few years. So why not open Moonrise Kingdom to a wider audience? It is a movie that stands out in comparison to everything else in the market for its artfulness and quality. It appeals to a demographic that loves movies, but has stopped paying to see them. The trump card though - and the moguls who run Hollywood and make remake after sequel after sequel might not understand this - it's a good movie. Why must we always consider the American populous too stupid to enjoy a movie without superfluous CG animation and a well conceived plot? I'd say give the movie a chance and let's give the cinema some culture to go along with all the superheroes destroying the planet. The people actually might enjoy it.

    See the trailer here!