2013 has already been a whirlwind of a year for the Alabama-born Katie Crutchfield, after the release of her second album under the moniker Waxahatchee last month in the US (on venerable punk label Don Giovanni) was met with immediate critical acclaim, earning ‘Best New Music’ and an 8.4 album score from Pitchfork as well as the ‘SPIN Essentials’ tag and continued support from NPR, among many others. This was followed by a very enthusiastically received string of shows at SXSW where she was singled out as one of the festival’s highlights by both local and international press, resulting in Wichita picking up the record for a worldwide release (excluding North America) this summer.
Katie Crutchfield is a natural at writing confessional pop songs. Since picking up the guitar as a teenager she has spent the better part of her young adult life travelling the country to play basement shows for feminist punks with bands like P.S. Eliot, Bad Banana and The Ackleys, all of which she sang for. Crutchfield and her twin sister Allison started these bands in high school, inspired by touring bands that would pass through Alabama, as well as a local community-run show space called Cave 9 where they both volunteered. The sisters were best known as P.S. Eliot, a band that developed a cultish underground following until disbanding in 2011. Deciding to go it alone, Crutchfield became Waxahatchee and released her debut album American Weekend in 2012 and its lo-fi acoustic guitar-pop songs made for one of the year’s best unsung records.
With Cerulean Salt, Crutchfield turns it up a notch and plugs in the guitar as well as adding a few band mates. A more accomplished and polished record, but no less intimate and affecting, the strength of Cerulean Salt lies in the simplicity and purity of its songs; a quality that ties them to millennial pop-punk, with melodies that immediately penetrate alongside Crutchfield’s frank vocal, delivering devastating, straight-from-the-heart lyrics backed by lacerating guitars and slouchy basslines. Sounding like an instant classic from the get go, its songwriting recalls the rawness of early Cat Power, the introspective lyrics of Rilo Kiley and the indie fuzz of The Breeders.
Cerulean Salt was recorded with assistance from Crutchfield’s roommates: her drummer Keith Spencer and bassist Sam Cook-Parrot, as well as her sister Allison Crutchfield (of Swearin’) and Kyle Gilbride (of Swearin’, Big Soda).
Waxahatchee’s live show currently consists of a bassist and drummer, amping up tracks from her lof-fi debut album American Weekend into full-band affairs – a set that will arrive in the UK when Waxahatchee supports Tegan And Sara on their European tour in June, with a headline London show at the Shacklewell Arms on 13 June.