Release Date: Mar 5, 2013
Record label: Don Giovanni
Alabama guitarist Katie Crutchfield sings bruising punk ballads about hanging out with other miserable young people and waiting for the fun part to begin, while starting to get the horrible suspicion this might be the fun part. Live, her band does a fantastic punked-up cover of Paul Simon's "The Boy in the Bubble" – and on her superb second album, Cerulean Salt, her songwriting lives up to that level of inspiration. Her first Waxahatchee album, 2012's American Weekend, was solo-acoustic melancholy, but the band here helps bring out all the frayed desperation in her voice, from the power-pop surge of "Coast to Coast" to the soft-spoken rage of "You're Damaged.
WaxahatcheeCerulean Salt[Don Giovanni; 2013]By Colin Joyce; March 6, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetToward the tail end of Waxahatchee's new record Cerulean Salt Katie Crutchfield (braintrust of the band and former member of Birmingham-based indie punks P.S. Eliot) unleashes a devastating line that functions in many ways as a clean thesis statement for the project as it has existed to date. On "Swan Dive," the antepenultimate track, she sings "I'm ruled by seasons/and sadness that's inexplicable." She seems, for a brief moment, at a loss.
“Track seven reminds me of you” might not sound like much of a chat-up line, but as a stuttering and awkward 14-year-old boy, sometimes it’s the best you can muster. Once, mixtapes were the currency of crushes: you’d give someone your lovingly assembled compilation, tell them how much Pavement’s ‘Major Leagues’ makes you think of them (but not in a weird way), shuffle away awkwardly, and hope for the best. The girls I went to school with weren’t that big into Pavement (I can only assume that was the problem), but I nevertheless stuck with the mixtape thing for a year or so.
Last year's American Weekend, Katie Crutchfield's piercing debut as Waxahatchee, got passed around like a secret. On the surface, it was a modest record-- 11 lo-fi acoustic songs written and recorded in the span of a week while snowed in at her parents' neighborless Alabama home near the body of water from which the project takes its name. Chronicling missed connections and cell phones smashed in moments of frustration, it was an album-length meditation on the modern allure of going off the grid (the first song was called "Catfish", but it wasn't about that).
Twenty years ago, the American singer Liz Phair released her debut album Exile In Guysville. Billed as a “track by track response to Exile On Main Street”, it was an astonishing record, full of scratchy, raw songs about dysfunctional relationships, enlivened by some sexually frank lyrics. To hear a woman singing “every time I see your face I get all wet between my legs” was quite the eyebrow-raiser in 1993.
The 19th century Romantic poet John Keats once declared: “Beauty is truth, truth beauty. ” He may have been gifted when it came to producing a natty rhyming couplet, but John Keats was completely fucking clueless when it came to reality in all its no-frills grubbiness. The truth is ugly and it takes a sturdy soul to face it head-on without dressing it up in something prettier.
As Waxahatchee, Philadelphia songwriter Katie Crutchfield's work is born of a punk aesthetic but drawn from a place so personal and inward that even the most tossed-off lines feel confessional. After releasing the 2011 Waxahatchee debut, American Weekend, as a more homespun solo acoustic outing, Cerulean Salt finds Crutchfield joined by some supporting musicians, amping up the production values, but, above all, finding a far deeper voice for her songs. Musically, the tunes have the cloudy atmospheres of some of the more unheralded late-'90s punk outliers.
On the song Coast To Coast from Waxahatchee's second full-length album, Katie Crutchfield sings, "I'll try to embrace the lows." If there's a theme running through the Alabama rock musician's work, which includes last year's critically acclaimed and totally unnoticed solo acoustic record, American Weekend, it's that: an unrepentant documenting of young-adult lows. On the surface, Crutchfield's themes share common ground with Best Coast. There's a lot of anxiety, self-doubt and emotional defeat on display.
Cerulean Salt, Katie Crutchfield's second album under the Waxahatchee moniker in as many years, is a far more ambitious and well-rounded album than its predecessor. With higher production values and some assistance from members of literal sister band Swearin', Crutchfield has created a truly great pop-rock record.American Weekend had a lo-fi charm to it, which is to say that it sounded like someone recorded it on a mobile phone while standing across the street. While Cerulean Salt is hardly a Butch Vig production, it sounds much clearer and crisper, allowing for each instrument to shine on its own.
Here’s the abridged history of Waxahatchee: Brooklyn punks P.S. Eliot break up in 2011, member Katie Crutchfield adopts the difficult-to-pronounce pseudonym named after a creek in her homestate of Alabama, and releases last January’s excellent American Weekend, a collection of heart-wrenching acoustic numbers. For their sophomore followup, Cerulean Salt, Crutchfield’s grown the project into a full band while somehow maintaining its deeply personal core.
The should-be legendary P.S. Eliot had one of those oil-and-water breakups like At the Drive-In splitting into prog-rollercoaster Mars Volta and radio-combed Sparta. The Crutchfield sisters’ perfect harmonic-noise synthesis splintered off into Allison’s charmingly undercooked garage squall in Swearin’, while Katie holed up into a meditative Paul Simon/Bon Iver/Julie Ruin exercise as the solo Waxahatchee to hone her lyrics.
It’s often easier said than done for a young artist to make a name for herself by just being herself, especially working in a singer-songwriter genre where new voices are a dime a dozen. Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, though, beats the odds by doing just that, showing the makings of a singular artist with a real knack for squeezing bittersweet mood out of plainspoken vignettes. On Cerulean Salt, her sophomore outing as Waxahatchee, Crutchfield finds that sweet spot where the way she reminds you of other memorable performers only makes you realize she’s one of a kind herself.
Cerulean Salt expands on the starkly personal anecdotes about failed relationships, family, and singer Kate Crutchfield’s often self-destructive nature on display on Waxahatchee’s 2012 debut, American Weekend, a collection of minimalist folk tunes recorded in her childhood home in Alabama. Enlisting the help of a full three-piece band on most of the tracks, Crutchfield’s comparatively polished studio recordings here hinge on the same emotional gravitas that’s come to define Waxahatchee. Crutchfield paints portraits of restlessness and yearning not unlike Lena’s Dunham’s Girls, but unlike those plaguing the HBO show’s titular twentysomethings, Crutchfield’s woes are far more fleeting, like on “Coast to Coast,” which reveals a wanderlust to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
"Ilook like I got my way/ But truly, I left with nothing at all," begins this flannel-clad break-up album, one that peers out from behind a Native American place name (Alabama's Waxahatchee Creek) and teases with a title that sends you scurrying for the dictionary (it means sky blue). The voice singing is girlish and American, the electric guitar work is basic but confident; there are no drums, or bass until later. But this combination of musical innocence and lyrical experience draws you in, curious as to how someone who sounds barely into their teens could grasp such a great deal about human affairs.
The songs Katie Crutchfield sings as Waxahatchee are like scalpels: they slice through her life, her loves and her dreams, ruthlessly excising any hint of self-deceit. Listen to how she addresses a boy in Swan Dive: "Won't you sleep with me every night for a week/ Won't you just let me pretend this is the love I need? I will grow out of all the empty words I often speak, and you will be depleted but much better off without me. " On paper, it seems like self-pity, but when her vocal ploughs across the pattering rhythm (played – in an ironic twist – by her present boyfriend, Keith Spencer), what you hear is brutal honesty.
Waxahatchee is Alabama’s Katie Crutchfield - ex-punk, veteran adolescent, restless twentysomething. Debut LP American Weekend, stamped with confrontational intimacy and nervous tape hiss, chronicled her ongoing self-appraisal, a personal whirlwind of close friends and distant family that rarely overestimated our interest. It was a moving, albeit straightforward document.
Katie Crutchfield has a way with words. Lyrics that might seem overwrought in another context are, on a Waxahatchee record, just the right words at the right time. Crutchfield is young—only twenty-four—but her songs, though they dwell on the subjects most near and dear to those in their mid-twenties (loss of innocence, relationships, alcohol and drugs, and self-loathing), are wise, earnest, and desperately literary in the most engaging way.
Katie Crutchfield’s young but she’s no rookie – for years she played with her twin sister Allison (who now fronts Swearin’) in a brilliantly named band called P.S. Eliot and Cerulean Salt is her second record under the name she took from a lake near her family’s Alabama home, Waxahatchee. Her first solo album,American Weekend, was decidedly more folk-tinged; on Salt, Crutchfield turns up both the feelings and the guitar volume (and distortion) to great effect – she might have released one of the breakout records of the year.
On American Weekend, Katie Crutchfield's 2012 debut as Waxahatchee, threadbare acoustic guitars formed the backdrop to songs that frankly explored the doomed relationships lining its maker's rocky transition into adulthood. "I'm aware that I am falling flat, and you will hurt me," she sang on 'I Think I Love You'. "And I deserve it." As Crutchfield has explained in interviews, sad songs are a natural fit for her; attempting to convey other emotions simply doesn't ring true.
‘Cerulean Salt’ is the second album under the Waxahatchee name by prolific Alabama songwriter Katie Crutchfield, who understands the devastating power of words to convey any number of feelings, desires and emotions. The music she makes as Waxahatchee is imbued with all the uncompromising spirit of punk rock yet touched by a resonant tenderness that almost anyone with any recollection of the yearning of adolescence and small town dreaming can relate to.The journey to ‘Cerulean Salt’ has been a long one. Over the past decade, Crutchfield has slogged her way around America, often with her sister Allison who now fronts US punk band Swearin’, playing innumerable shows and developing her own voice.
Inspired by the women who smashed punk’s bulletproof glass ceiling, Birmingham, Alabama-bred Katie Crutchfield, along with her twin sister Allison, played in DIY pop outfit P.S. Eliot (which called it quits in 2011). Now flying solo as stripped-down solo artist Waxahatchee, Crutchfield became an ideal addition in 2011 to Don Giovanni, a label that’s heavily stacked with New York and New Jersey DIY artists who are just as comfortable (if not more so) rocking basements as notable venues.