Listening to Jukebox without mentally holding it up next to The Covers Record for comparison is nearly impossible. Two very different records, with the same conceit--anything Chan Marshall touches turns to Cat Power. But if she's never had any trouble molding songs to her own image, the end result is much, much different in 2008 than it was in 2000. Just to remove as many variables as possible, let's consider the tracks on each where Marshall reworks her own compositions. "In This Hole" from 2000, took a sparse earlier ballad and stripped it down even further until it was almost unbearably intimate; just piano notes and a breaking heart. Jukebox's "Metal Heart" takes one of those early bare bones compositions (from 1998's career highpoint Moon Pix) and attempts to fill in its empty spaces. Her voice is smokier now, less emotionally precarious. This isn't the girl who prompted rescue fantasies from the collective indie-boy nation. It's much harder to imagine that she's the one destined for her "sad, sad zoo." It does seem plausible though that she might be singing this back to that old delicate persona. Her stable band adds comfort to the suddenly convincing "Amazing Grace" lift, "I once was lost but now I'm found." And if that new found assurance is going to dim the crushes of a thousand voyeuristic ears, well, it was probably an easy trade to make.
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