WAXAHATCHEE – Early Recordings (Merge EP): Record labels release ephemera like throwaway EPs stuffed with poor quality demos of living artists as though they were bequeathing gifts to a larger audience that missed the recording-in-question’s original run, though usually such releases are little more than easy-to-swallow in-between-album snacks meant to fill you for a moment of no new material until the next meal. But even if super lo-fi leftovers aren’t your jam (and honestly, they’re usually not mine), this reissue of Katie Crutchfield’s first EP under her pseudonym is likely to hold you over, as Early Recordings—with its weird echoes and tape hiss—is the logical step backwards from American Weekend, similar enough in its acoustic guitar and voice-only aesthetic, though noticeably rougher.
Early Recordings doesn’t quite capture the feeling of eternal summer that American Weekend does, with love and loss and marriage and separation experienced through the confused though not totally naïve lens of a young woman leaving her teens whose disaffected yet mystified youths guzzle booze and pop pills enough to pickle their livers and stop their hearts before thirty. But these are good songs, all five of them, quicker than a lot of the slower, late night ponderous parties Crutchfield would later throw for herself. In relying heavily on her voice to carry her songs rather than instrumentation, she not only discovers the secret of singer-songwriters (that the music should conform to the voice rather than the opposite), she puts her special way with words front and center. And her words are something attractive. The ridiculously bad recording apparatus will make you strain to understand her, but as ever she’s obsessed with sadness not as a means of pity garnering, but as something primal, an immoveable force that permeates everything. She revels in it. It’s her element. A MINUS
ALLISON CRUTCHFIELD – Lean In to It (Stupid Bad EP ’14): Sister Allison, though, is less interested in acoustic guitar and poorly-placed microphones, instead relying on drum loops and Casio keyboards for her sole solo outing, a completely different approach than her outfits PS Eliot and the current Swearin’. Yet her move away from brash, guitar-driven pop punk to a stripped-down synthosphere confirms that her strength lies in the visceral power and raw emotion of her voice, and not so much in what she has to say. Whereas either of her bands benefited from being loud if not quite aggressive, Lean In to It is fairly monotone. There’s no build up in these songs. They end where they began: out of nowhere, imploding on a dime. B PLUS (**)
Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp (Merge ’15): A MINUS
Swearin’ – Surfing Strange (Salinas ’13): B PLUS (**)
Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt (Don Giovanni ’13): A MINUS
Waxahatchee – American Weekend (Don Giovanni ’12): A MINUS