Back in the day, I sported long hair with a blunt fringe. I was trying to be Leslie Feist but someone in the year above me at school said I was a dead ringer for Cat Power. None the wiser as to who this was, a Google later confirmed that we had the same haircut but the similarities ended after that. It is surprising that it's taken me this long to get around to actually listening to Cat Power - the performing name of Chan Marshall - as she is very much within the ethereal indie lady bracket I spent most of my teen years in. The aforementioned Feist, along with Martha Wainwright and Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes, made up for bus journeys filled with yearning and frustrating trips to the hairdressers, as I laid out the collage of their fringes combined and never left with quite what I was after. But, given my schoolmate's comment, close enough.
A feeling not far away from what I was left with by one of Marshall's most successful albums, The Greatest. The acerbic Barbie pink and brassy gold boxing gloves on the cover are a sly wink, as the songs within are not brash displays of arrogance but gentler paeans to self-awareness instead. Each song is incredibly lovely to listen to at the time but then, ultimately forgettable. Catchiness isn't something that I ever thought I looked for in a song but I keenly felt the lack of a hook, whether in straightforward melodic terms or more in the sense of meaning. There's a deja vu from my listen of Beth Orton's Central Reservation. Enjoyable in the fleeting present but hard to grasp when the album is done.
But what if that's the point? The sly wink extending into a nudge. The Greatest is for the here and now, drawing us into the ephemeral, with a lush mix of blues and jazz tones, and just as quickly as it arrives, it disappears again, leaving the faintest and most skilled of traces.