Mental illness, bankruptcy, heartbreak, sonic impotence: Chan Marshall has suffered through her share of crises since her last album of original material, 2006's highly praised The Greatest. Most songwriters use that kind of personal turmoil as a boot up the ass, creatively speaking — often as a means to exorcise their demons through song. It wouldn't have been a surprise, either: after all, soul-baring has always been Marshall's bread and butter. But on Sun, her frustratingly vacant ninth album, Marshall swallows all of that angst, channeling her emotions into bland, quasi-political lyrics and zonked-out, dead-end textures. You have to hand it to mixer Philippe Zdar — dude uses every tool at his disposal to beef up these skeletal tracks. Every bass-drum hit explodes like a firecracker, and every buzzy synth drills straight into your brain. When Marshall's songs themselves are as engaged and lively as the sounds, Sun can be thrilling: opener "Cherokee" sets a haunting precedent that the rest of Sun fails to match, with a dozen or so Marshalls harmonizing over dizzy hip-hop drum breaks and a ghostly piano riff. "Ruin" suffers from on-the-nose lyrical preachiness ("Some people ain't got shit to eat," Marshall ruminates at one point. For real?), but from a musical standpoint, it's top-shelf stuff, with winding layers of samba piano looped over funk bass and pounding drums. Elsewhere, certain textures float above the murk. (The Auto-Tune/marimba outro on "3,6,9" is far more interesting than the repetitive, schoolyard patty-cake nonsense that precedes it.) But Sun constantly squanders its potential. Which leads us to "Nothin But Time," a plodding, 10-minute snoozefest with an atrocious Iggy Pop cameo (is there any other kind of Iggy Pop cameo?), a gratuitous false ending, and the Katy Perry–esque mantra "Your world is just beginning/It's up to you to be a superhero." The sentiment apparently fell deaf on her own ears.
CAT POWER | House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St, Boston | October 24 @ 7 pm | All Ages | $34.50-$45 | 617.693.2583