My favorite album of the moment is...

Because I'm sick at home at the moment, I feel like I can blog about whatever I want today. And damnit, I want to blog about music. Specifically, my favorite recently-released record, "The Greatest" by Cat Power. For once, a new album -- this new album -- actually kinda lives up all its annoying media hype. Yes dear, this album might actually be Chan Marshall's best.ever.

I've been a whopping Cat Power fan since I had a college internship at Matador, her record label, back in '98. (One of the perks of the job was amassing a massive cd collection -- I own almost every Matador album released between its inception in '89 or '90, and August '98).

But Cat Power has always held a special place in my heart. Not just for Marshall's soft, sometimes-creepy, sometimes-weepy Southern inflected voice -- which I adore -- but because she's just such a crazy, lovely, real character. She doesn't try to hide her mental health issues behind some BS "I'm a hot-shit indie celebrity!" facade. Nope. Instead, she puts her weird-ass tendencies and neuroses out there for all to see. In interviews -- like this one from index magazine, which is my favorite -- Chan has talked about seeing ghosts, her schizophrenia, and growing out her underarm hair.

I've seen her live lots of times, and without fail, she puts on a show to be remembered; even if the memories, um, aren't that great. Like the first time I saw her live, in college at a small venue in Northampton, Mass., the audience wasn't hushed or reverent enough for Marshall's liking, so she screamed at some woman talking during her set, "That's so rude!" before storming offstage and cutting the whole show short. Another couple of times, I've seen her perform at least half her set with her back to the audience (she's notoriously shy and freaked out by crowds).

Despite, or because of, all her strange quirks, Chan makes music that's consistently gorgeous. (Go here to watch her latest Harmony Korine-directed video, in which the ever-foxy Ms. Marshall is pinned to a cross [!!!] in a red vinyl catsuit that would put Britney Spears to shame).

"The Greatest" is much more self-loathing and sad than Marshall's last couple of releases (I smell a bad breakup!). In a song called "Hate," the miserable chorus is lifted right from the mouth of depressed dead star Kurt Cobain ( "I hate myself and I want to die"). But the album's sound is far from suicide-inducing. Recorded in Memphis with a bunch of soul maestros including Al Green's guitarist Teenie Hodges, "The Greatest" is big and sweeping and grandiose and soul-driven and bluesy. It is, by far, my favorite album of the moment.

Good night, and good luck.

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