For most of her career, dancing to Chan Marshall's music involved these simple steps. Fold arms across chest. Gaze downwards. Slowly slide arms upwards to hug shoulders. Rock gently, from side to side.
But over her two decades of recording, Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power) has repeatedly taken that stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks voice in new directions: from spare electric-guitar folk to stripped-down covers to Memphis soul to Sun, her last full-length album with big hooks and juicy strobe-light beats. Since then, she's gotten jazzy behind a piano. What hasn't changed through Marshall's sonic transformations has been lyrics that blur lines between hope and hopelessness, grit and shattered tenderness.
Then there's her singing, the husky whisper that hits you like a cool breeze on goosebump-prone flesh.
Few performers are as compelling — or as sensitive and intense. Marshall has struggled with anxiety and addiction, leading to an unpredictable relationship with performance. She hides very little and internalizes a great deal. But from fraught pauses to wounded, powerful paeans, and through her gamut of stylings, Marshall can move you thoroughly, and still you at the same time.