Cat Power's got the beat. If there's a throughline between "Ruin" and "Cherokee," the two songs to emerge so far from Chan Marshall's upcoming Sun LP — her first original album in six years, due out September 4 on Matador — it's a confident embrace of rhythm and percussion. Sure, that's been the general trajectory of Marshall's overall career, from her halting lo-fi years to 2006's soul-swaying The Greatest. But the self-produced piano rock of these two songs, mixed by French electro-house vet Philippe Zdar, pulls no punches. It isn't slack; it isn't retro, either. Jay-Z and Kanye West, who sampled Zdar's duo Cassius on Watch the Throne, could easily be imagined rapping over this, too.
Not that Marshall has abandoned the bruised vitality that powered her career-launching '90s albums. Where the wandering "Ruin" found a bit of characteristically blunt social consciousness ("Some people ain't got shit to eat"), "Cherokee" returns to two of Cat Power's foundational subjects: love and pain. Here, however, Marshall yokes her narrator's personal passions to more elemental powers, insisting, "Marry me / Marry me to the sky," over brisk drums and even bird-like noises. A fitting comparison might be the urgent, atmospheric, and vaguely mystical art-pop of Bat for Lashes' dazzling 2009 Two Suns.
Equally savvy is the choice of Nicolas Jaar to remix "Cherokee." The New York-based producer played with rhythms from another direction in the unpredictable future-funk of Space Is Only Noise, which skirted the edges of techno in favor of a more organic, low-key style, and he has only moved closer toward pop with a down-pitched Missy Elliott remix and the post-Timbaland skronk&b of "With Just One Glance." He finds the space in "Cherokee," strips it back to Beach House-like organ gleam and smoky vocals, uncovers the bedtime prayer hints in Marshall's "If I die before my time..." lyric to transform the track into a gorgeous ambient-pop lullaby. He grabs a calculator and helps the song's protagonist fix herself.