Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
There’s a certain strain of singer-songwriters who have no bones about laying out their existential angst for all to see. Their songs are their confessional: introspective, deeply personal and yet universal. We recognise the sadness in their lives as a reflection of our own. It’s a genuine, deep-rooted sadness, built upon that fear that life is pretty terrible and it doesn’t look likely to improve any time soon. These are the songs that will truly break your heart. Elliott Smith wrote them during the 90s and Waxahatchee writes them now.
A graduate of Alabama’s punk scene, Waxahatchee (real name Katie Crutchfield) already has an impressive back catalogue at the age of only 24. She and her twin sister Alison began playing music in their mid-teens, going on to form the little known but highly regarded P.S. Eliot. After calling it a day in 2011, the two sisters went their separate ways, with Allison forming the pop-punk band Swearin’ and Katie hitting out solo under the moniker of Waxahatchee.
Cerulean Salt retains the lo-fi ethos of American Weekend, Crutchfield’s debut release from last year, while incorporating a whole load of new elements. Noticeably crisper in terms of production, it also ropes in her sister and members of Swearin’ to play on some of the more fleshed-out tracks such as Waiting or the sugar rush of drums and guitars that is the lead single Coast to Coast. For the most part, however, a simple guitar or bassline underpins Waxahatchee’s ragged vocals.
Most of the tracks here are directed towards an unnamed “you” whose anxieties run parallel to Waxahatchee’s own. They both exist under a stifling cloud of small town depression, missed opportunities and emotional indifference. While one dreams of a “loveless marriage and regret”, the other contemplates a “swan dive to the asphalt”. The song Swan Dive features a line which could well serve as the mantra for the album: “We will find a way to be lonely every chance we get”.
All of this emotional intensity shouldn’t distract from the fact that Cerulean Salt is also brilliantly melodious. Sparse instrumentation and snappy running times, both redolent of the ethos of her early punk playing days, are expertly judged, creating a work which is a succession of succinct punches to the gut. So, whilst weeping uncontrollably, you can also hum along. This is the most devastating album you’ll hear this year.
Cerulean Salt was released on 1st July 2013.
Watch the video for Coast to Coast here: