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Cashmere Cat - Princess Catgirl Music Album Reviews

The Norwegian producer invents a Vocaloid-inspired feline character and retreats from the spotlit pop of his last album, returning to the introspective hush of his earlier work.
After all these years, Cashmere Cat is still shy. The musician born Magnus August Høiberg has nearly a decade of prismatic productions under his belt, which has led to appearances on the big stages at EDM festivals, collaborations with childhood heroes, and studio time with the biggest pop stars in the world. On some level, Høiberg has had to adjust to the practicalities that this success requires. He once wouldn’t even do in-person interviews, but a few years ago he finally decided to open up about his life story in a music video. One would imagine he’s no longer hiding in a bathroom, as a friend of his once described, when DJ Khaled unexpectedly turns up at the studio.

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Patsy Cline - Sentimentally Yours Music Album Reviews

Each Sunday, Pitchfork takes an in-depth look at a significant album from the past, and any record not in our archives is eligible. Today, we revisit the final album of Patsy Cline’s lifetime, a record that helped define country-pop.

Hank Cochran probably didn’t think too much about the word “or” when he wrote “She’s Got You” in 1961. He probably didn’t give it much thought when he had a demo made, or even when he drove that demo over to Patsy Cline’s home in Madison, Tennessee, to play it for her personally.

But Cline made that “or” the song’s emotional hinge. “She’s Got You,” which opens Sentimentally Yours, the final full-length she released during her lifetime, is about the souvenirs of a romance that ended abruptly; Patsy has his class ring, his photograph, all the physical objects that typically signify love and commitment. But she doesn’t have the man himself. He’s someone else’s now. “I’ve got your memory,” she sings, sounding as though this alone might sustain her. Then she backtracks: “Or…. has it got me?”

The way Cline sings “or” isn’t a sigh or a sob. It’s more like a deflation. She might have convinced herself that there was comfort to be found in those old objects, but that “or” obliterates any such hope. With that aching note, Cline reaches out of the song, out of the past, and right into the present moment.

“She’s Got You” was another major hit for Cline, one in a series of country-pop smashes that signaled a comeback after several years in the wilderness and established her as one of the most successful crossover artists in Nashville. In the studio and on the stage, Cline did not initially walk those lines confidently: Preferring the cowgirl outfits her mother Hilda sewed for her and the yodeling country and western numbers she cut her teeth singing in Virginia, Cline initially fought against attempts to change her repertoire and gussy up her image.

She didn’t want to record her 1957 hit “Walkin’ After Midnight”; she thought it portrayed her as a prostitute, and she certainly didn’t want to perform it on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, a popular singing show on CBS—sort of a black-and-white version of American Idol. Her opinion softened considerably when she won the competition and the song quickly ascended the pop and country charts. It should have been a career-maker, but the horrible contract she signed with 4 Star Records severely limited her material and left her more financially strapped than she had been before her breakout.

Within her small catalog of recordings, however—and especially on her third album, 1962’s Sentimentally Yours—Cline sounds like she has no misgivings whatsoever. She makes pop-country sound natural, inevitable: a reassurance that country music could survive the onslaught of rock’n’roll that threatened to render it obsolete. More crucially, the album marked the culmination of her own development as a vocalist and interpreter. She hit her stride at a crucial moment in Nashville history, when a wave of talented songwriters were redefining the genre’s conventions. Cline was a favorite of Cochran, Willie Nelson (who wrote her hit “Crazy”), and Harlan Howard (“I Fall to Pieces”). She essentially rewrote their songs simply by singing them, elevating their words and wringing every one of their rhymes for maximum dramatic potential.

Cline similarly became identified with what had been dubbed the Nashville Sound—later referred to as countrypolitan. After the explosion of rock’n’roll in the mid-1950s, country music saw its market shrink and its influence wane. Established artists were playing to half-empty venues and suffering significant sales slumps. The Nashville Sound was perhaps a desperate attempt to reach new audiences by essentially de-twanging country music. Fiddles and banjos were replaced by lush string arrangements, high lonesome harmonies with smooth backing vocals. Two-steps and honky-tonk beats gave way to more urbane rhythms.

Working with Owen Bradley (considered one of the primary architects of the Nashville Sound) and a stable of ace session players locally known as the A-Team, Cline suppressed the heavy twang that had defined some of her earliest recordings, backed away from belting, and cut yodeling from her act entirely. The transformation extended to her wardrobe, as she traded fringed jackets for cocktail dresses and cowboy boots for high heels. She was by no means the first artist to popularize the Nashville Sound, but she was shaping up to be one of its biggest stars.

Cline shouldn’t have lived long enough to enjoy this career resurgence. In June 1961, she was involved in a head-on collision on Old Hickory Boulevard in Nashville, not far from where the Grand Ole Opry is today. She was thrown through the windshield and suffered a dislocated hip and broken ribs, and a cut that resulted in a scar running the length of her face. Bloodied by the side of the road, the still-conscious Cline demanded that paramedics treat the other driver first. Almost as soon as she was released from the hospital, she was back on the road and in the studio. She made an appearance at the Opry in a wheelchair, and she performed all over the Midwest on crutches. Reportedly, it took her nearly four hours to apply makeup to hide her scar.

It’s difficult to gauge the effect of that accident on her craft. Recording at Bradley’s famous Quonset Hut Studio in downtown Nashville, Cline found that her tender ribs prevented her from singing as forcefully as she once did, and she had to cut some sessions short due to fatigue and intense headaches. This brought a new restraint to her performances, as she created more space for nuance and imagination. Remarkably, there is no sense in her recordings from the early 1960s of an artist re-learning her instrument. She’s not coming into her own as an artist; she’s already there.

The fact that she was even recording long-players like Sentimentally Yours reveals the faith her new record label Decca had in her as a commercial force: Most country artists were recording singles, which appealed to a younger demographic, namely teenage girls who could scrounge together change for an inexpensive single. That audience was a growing presence at Cline’s concerts; a full album catered to the adult crowd as well, suggesting Cline was uniting demographics as well as genres.

Sentimentally Yours shows how Cline navigated a compelling middle ground between the demands of country tunes and pop standards. The chipper “Heartaches” had been a hit decades earlier for bandleader Guy Lombardo. Cline’s version retains that swinging momentum, allowing her to bounce over the melody like a stone skipping across a lake. “That’s My Desire” was a song most closely associated with Frankie Laine, who had a hit with it in 1946, but no one could muster the mature sexuality that Cline invests in a line like, “I’ll gaze into your eyes divine.” Perhaps the most stunning transformation is “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want to Do It),” most popular as a song Judy Garland sang to a photograph of Clark Gable in the film Broadway Melody of 1938. What had been an ode to starstruck puppy love here becomes something much graver and darker.

As for country, Sentimentally Yours includes her versions of “Lonely Street” (a hit for Carl Belew and Kitty Wells) and Eddy Arnold’s “Anytime,” as well as not one or two, but three songs associated with Hank Williams. This version of “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” a favorite from earlier in her career, gets a more cosmopolitan arrangement that crackles with guitar and piano, and she responds by drawing out the last syllables of every line, as though unwilling to cede the spotlight to her backup singers, the Jordanaires. At times Sentimentally Yours plays like a commentary on the history of Nashville crossovers and Cline’s place within that trend. “Half As Much” had already been covered by pop artists like Rosemary Clooney (with Percy Faith & His Orchestra, no less), and Cline strikes a compelling balance between the weighty emotions of Williams’ original with the bouncy cadence of Clooney’s pop cover.

Sentimentally Yours reinforces Cline’s persona: She is always the lonely one, the heartbroken, the one who suffers so that another woman can thrive. Love is a zero-sum game. This is the province of country music starting with the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers and codified by Hank Williams at the century’s midpoint. But few artists have managed to find so many facets of despair or to express them so carefully, so precisely, and she was digging even deeper into heartaches on the singles that followed this album. “If you’ve got leavin’ on your mind,” she sings on 1963’s “Leavin’ on Your Mind,” “hurt me now. Get it over.”

“Leavin’ on Your Mind” was Cline’s last single released during her lifetime, before the plane crash that killed her on March 5, 1963. Cline truly did have leavin’ on her own mind; she told close friends, including Loretta Lynn and June Carter, that she didn’t expect to see 30. Her death at that age cemented her reputation. But her star corroded over time, especially in the late 1970s, when country outlaws, new traditionalists, and southern rockers rejected attempts to polish or de-twang country music. Cline was dismissed as an oldie, the figurehead of an earlier era with questionable aims and outmoded sounds. Her crossover success became a burden to her legacy: proof of some inherent inauthenticity.

In the 1980s, however, Cline’s tragically small catalog was reappraised, first with the 1985 feature film Sweet Dreams (a horrendous biopic that’s mostly interested in her ne’er-do-well second husband) and later with compilations like 12 Greatest Hits (a fine starting place for newcomers) and the box set The Patsy Cline Collection (which arranged her catalog chronologically for the first time). Ken Burns devotes a hefty chunk of his new documentary Country Music to her story and her influence in Nashville, and Lifetime has a new biopic that examines the close friendship between Cline and Lynn. Her legacy extends to subsequent generations of young country artists who experiment with pop sounds and vocal stylings without the same hand-wringing that accompanied Cline’s innovations.

Well beyond the loss of life and artistic possibility, her early death remains a central aspect of her legacy, threatening to overshadow the stylistic innovations she made at a pivotal moment in country music history. She defined herself with songs about heartache and yearning, and her voice—simultaneously emotive and restrained—made her deeply sympathetic and endlessly relatable. And yet, that plane crash means we never got to see that suffering abate. We never got to see her expand her repertoire to songs that elaborated on that sadness or countered it with contentment. Patsy Cline never even got a chance for a happy ending.

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