Following up her debut bedroom-recorded album American Weekend Katie Crutchfield, who records under the name Waxahatchee, has stepped up her game with her second release, Cerulean Salt. Bringing together the confessional lyrical concerns of early emo acts such as Sunny Day Real Estate with the unashamedly straightforward hooks of pop punk and the DIY approach of 90s alternative scene, with this album Waxahatchee have stepped out of the bedroom and into the garage, allowing enough room for some drums and distortion to add to her sound.
Hollow Bedroom starts in a similar vein to the last record, with lone voice and guitar, as Katie sings 'I left like I got my way/But truly I left with nothing at all', her voice warm and approachable. From the offset she displays the strength of her voice which everything else falls around. On Peace and Quiet, big simple guitar chords underline soft vocals, before drums kick in for the chorus, using quiet loud dynamics to strong effect, and Coast to Coast sounds closer to the punk rock leanings of her first band P.S. Elliott, providing one of the most up-tempo moments on the record. Its a perfect little piece of catchy pop punk with its only real flaw being that, with a length of less than two minutes, it ends too soon. On Lively, the lyrics tell of a relationship with someone suffering with drug addiction, lost in a world of despair and depression, over clean guitars and a loose 6/4 rhythm. This frank and personal approach is most apparent here, but is displayed throughout, with her lyrics often walking a fine line between direct and obtuse, though its hard not to find something in her torn and weary delivery. Tracks like Swan Dive and Blue Part II almost sound like they could be counterparts to some of Elliott Smith's early output.
The addition of a full band hasn't changed Katie's concerns for this project, and the additional instruments are often used in sparse and interesting ways, from the country shuffle on Lips and Limbs to the slow noise pop of Misery over Dispute, never getting in the way of the emotional core of the album. Like American Weekend before it, its biggest flaw is its length, with its runtime reaching just over half an hour, you're left wanting more. Rough around the edges and charmingly messy, listening to Waxahachee still remains an intimate, engaging experience, its simple and informal approach unobtrusively demands your attention and holds it with ease.
Originally posted on figure8magazine.co.uk