Waxahatchee "Cerulean Salt" 2013
I’ve been meaning to write about this new album for weeks. I fall more and more in love with it every time I listen to it all the way through, and after about 100 listens I think I’m ready to purge my thoughts and feelings.
The first couple seconds into the album, I had to double-check and make sure I was listening to the right thing, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. It goes without saying that Cerulean Salt is vastly different than American Weekend. Waxahatchee is no longer just Katie Crutchfield in a solitary room with a fuzzy guitar, but a hi-fi 3-piece outfit. It took me a while to get used to and I think this is what turned a lot of people off. But this is definitely an album you have to listen through a bunch of times, and in different settings, too: in your room on your laptop, on your headphones on the bus, and while walking home on a quiet night.
For example, I hated “Dixie Cups and Jars” the first time I heard it. It wasn’t until 16 listens later when I was alone with my thoughts on a walk home that I heard the line “makeup sits on your face like tar” and it felt like a stab in the gut.
Which brings me to the bold declaration that after hearing this album I can safely say that Crutchfield is one of my favorite lyricists. Her songs are lyrically dense, and I think that’s why it takes a few listens to really soak it all in. You can tell that no line, no word is put in each song in vain. I could go through practically every single P.S. Eliot and Waxahatchee lyric to point out examples, but let’s just look at Blue Pt. II because I think it’s particularly poignant (for me, at least).
If you think that I’ll wait forever, you were right and,
I’ll give you everything you wanted if I can
And when I look into your olive colored eyes
I feel a breach, it makes me cry, it makes me cry
I wake up early every morning
And you sleep for hours after me
In our darkened bedroom,
I can’t breath behind this curtain that we keep
We’ll wake up sober two weeks later;
And we’re loving..
The atmosphere is fucking tired it brings us nothing
If you think that I’ll stay forever you were right and,
I’ll give you everything you wanted when I can
And it may look like every hour is dictated
By the chance of rain
We won’t want to die
We won’t even feel an ounce of pain
I think this song made me realize that Crutchfield’s writing has been inspiring my own writing without me even noticing. While I absolutely love the lyrics in “Blue Pt. II,” I have to say that the next track, “Brother Bryan,” is my favorite on the album, and I knew it from the moment I heard the opening line, “I said to you on the night that we met that I’m not well.” It fucking hits home. If I appreciate “Blue Pt. II” lyrically as a whole, then “Brother Bryan” is the song I appreciate for its various lines that stick out for me. "My sister’s eyes flood like rivers of wine in your absence" is probably my favorite lyric on the entire album. I’ve read that this album centers around Crutchfield’s family life, and usually things concerning family (and more specfiically, sisters) just really digs at me. And the way she sings it is so smooth; her voice sounds like fresh water pouring into a glass.
What I love even more than “Brother Bryan” is the transition from that low, dark song to the next, “Coast to Coast.” I literally, out loud, said “holy shit” the first time I heard it. “Coast to Coast” sounds nothing like the Waxahatchee we all know in love… in fact, it’s a bit reminiscent of P.S. Eliot. JUST a tiny bit. The song is no doubt a sprint- both the shortest and most upbeat on the album. Regardless, it’s a break from the heavy tone of the rest of the album, and sounds like a typical tour song: “We lay at night, cursing our stage fright.” I also love the lyric, “We indulge every reckless whim.” It reminds me that Crutchfield isn’t even much older than I, and that she’s not some superhuman that I idolize, but an actual person.
The next track is where things start getting really weird. I had an internal “wait, NOOOOOO” moment when I realized that “Tangled Envisioning” sounds like it could be a Taylor Swift song. But I guess Crutchfeld ran the risk of that with the higher production quality on this album paired with a solitary acoustic guitar on this track.Thankfully, I had a sigh of relief when I heard “Misery Over Dispute” which follows (it’s sandwiched with “Lively” serving as another piece of borderline-whiny Taylor Swift bread). It starts off with some powerful bass drum, an element that we lost from Crutchfield’s work when P.S. Eliot split and drummer/twin Alison Crutchfield moved on to her own project. I LOVE this bass drum, almost as much as I love the desperation you hear in her voice on the opening lines.
The last three songs, “Swan Dive,” “Peace and Quiet,” and “You’re Damaged” are each flawless. They’re all my runners-up for favorite song.
Overall I’m really pleased with the addition of other instrumentals on this album. While I love the lo-fi acoustic guitar paired with only Crutchfield’s balmy voice, it must be understood that Cerulean Salt is meant to have a tone entirely different from American Weekend. Nevertheless, they are both fantastic albums. So much love.