Music Review: Waxahatchee finds beauty in the bruises

Sam Osborne

Katie Crutchfield has a way with delivering the excruciatingly honest. She makes the mundane and minute beautiful, painting pictures of small town existentialism and post-adolescent indifference.

“I left like I got my way/But truly I left with nothing at all,” she nonchalantly howls on “Hollow Bedroom”, the evocative opening of her sophomore effort “Cerulean Salt”, as Waxahatchee.

Crutchfield hails from Birmingham, Ala. originally, apparent through her irresistible southern drawl, but you get the sense she’s from a little bit of everywhere. The 25-year-old has spent the last decade fronting numerous bands (The Ackleys, P.S. Eliot, Bad Banana), touring the country (and world) Coast to Coast, and in the midst has established herself as a prolific songwriter in the DIY circuit.


“Cerulean Salt” has proved to be Crutchfield’s official coming out. The record, released in March 2013, has since garnered overwhelming critical acclaim, finding itself on countless “Best of 2013″ lists.

Blurred teenage memories, clumsy hookups and toxic relationships are all fodder for Crutchfield.

On the poignant “Lively”, Crutchfield tackles the ugliness of drug abuse. We find her in a dimly lit hospital room by the side of her overdosed lover. The song features one of the most haunting moments on the record.

“I had a dream last night/We had hit separate bottoms/You yell right in my face/And I’ll poison myself numb,” she cries out, longing for the simplicity of youth.

Crutchfield’s imagery is vivid, recalling dark winter mornings, unexplained blood stains on the backseat and hazy childhood memories spent at the river (er, Waxahatchee creek).

Crutchfield’s collection of songs is timeless and seems to resonate more with each passing listen.

She finds beauty in the bruises and wisdom in her wounds.

“You hold on to the past/You make yourself miserable/And I’m ruled by the seasons/And a sadness that’s inexplicable,” she confesses on “Swan Dive”.

When did your interest in making music start? What was it like growing up in the Alabama music scene?

“I guess I started wanting to make music when I was about 14. The Alabama music scene at that time was magical. There was a DIY all ages space there called Cave 9 and a ton of really enthusiastic kids my age. It was really cool.”

I’ve read that you basically wrote and recorded your entire first album over the course of a weekend. If you don’t mind, explain that experience. Is your song writing/recording process typically a quick, cathartic kind of process?

“It was a week. It had snowed a lot, which Alabama is not really equipped for. So I just stayed in and wrote songs.”

How did the process of writing and recording for Cerulean Salt differ?

“The process for “Cerulean Salt” was similar, but the subject matter and recording process were different.”

American Weekend and Cerulean Salt are similar in the fact that they evoke raw emotion and are often unflinchingly personal. However, your latest release seems to focus less on relationships and more on nostalgia. Can you talk about what inspired you for Cerulean Salt lyrically?

“I wanted to branch out and stop writing about the brand of heartbreak I had been writing about for years. I think lamenting your lost adolescence evoked similar feelings for me.”

Cat Power, Rilo Kiley, Liz Phair (especially early girlysound tapes) are artists that I have heard you compared to. Do you feel a connection to these artists and just the aesthetic of 90′s grunge?

I find the 90s comparison a little gratuitous. 90s nostalgia is almost generic at this point. I love a lot of music from that era but I feel like that really sticks me into a corner I don’t want to be in. That said, I do really like all the music you named. Rilo Kiley was crucial to my early songwriting. That was early 2000s though.

Being from the south, do you feel any connection or inspiration from country music? (i.e. Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Lucinda Williams)

That’s the music I grew up on. I feel like Loretta Lynn has always seemed like some sort of goddess to me. Even as a child. I love that era of country. So many good singers and songwriters.

You were in P.S. Eliot with you sister for several years and gained a pretty loyal fan base. What was the transition to being a basically individual project? Do you have any future plans to collaborate with her?

I wrote everything in P.s. Eliot, so the transition was pretty seamless. We’re really close and our lives are intertwined in basically every other facet. We have no plans to collaborate.