Waxahatchee is a recording project for indie folk/rock singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield. She’s based in Brooklyn now, but she’s originally from Birmingham, Alabama, where she used to be in a punk band called P.S. Eliot with her twin sister Allison.
While I was doing some research on another band, I happened upon a couple of mentions of Waxahatchee, and after I listened to and loved one song, I discovered that I’ve gotten some emails about her. Not “mail bag” stuff per se, but there was an email conversation this past week among my Music Geek friends.
In January of 2012, Crutchfield released her debut album American Weekend, which was written and recorded very quickly at her family’s home in Alabama. It was a bare-bones type thing, full of brutal honesty and emotional exposure. Though it flew under my radar, it was met with critical praise. This new record, which features a full band, just came out on March 5, and even though my radar screen was going wild, I wasn’t paying attention to the screen and I almost missed it.
On a lot of the songs, especially tonight’s song, I’m reminded of the fantastic Vancouver duo Drawn Ship. Remember back between about December of 2011 and about April of 2012 when I wouldn’t shut up about Drawn Ship? Yeah. That. While part of my reason for comparing them is that Crutchfield’s voice reminds me of Lyn Heinemann (Drawn Ship), the music is also sort of similar. Coincidentally, so is the backstory. The first Waxahatchee record was meant to be a “breakup album” and everything was fiercely personal. It’s the same thing with that Drawn Ship record. It’s all about personal relationships and one breakup in particular. Like American Weekend, it was written and recorded quickly. In fact, the drummer in Drawn Ship agreed to be in the band on the condition that the album would be written and recorded quickly, and straight from the heart.
I didn’t mean to digress. Here’s tonight’s song:
“Brother Bryan” by Waxahatchee
I love the opening line:
I said to you on the night that we met
‘I am not well’
then a little bit later
We are only 30% dead
Our parents go to sleep early
We destroy all of our esteem
At first blush, there’s not much going on here. Vocals, pretty basic notes on the bass guitar, very sparse drums — just the bass and snare. Nothing to it. There is a little bit more, though. One of the things that I really like is the treatment of Crutchfield’s vocals. On at least one song from the album, she gets some vocal harmony help from her sister, but there’s something different going on here. I adore the raspy quality to her voice, especially in that opening line. It’s a little softer throughout the rest of the song, and there’s also a trick that I really like. Either there’s some complex delay effect, or there’s two different vocal tracks. Obviously, there’s the up-front vocal. Way beneath that, and a small fraction of a second ahead of it, there’s what I assume is a second vocal track. It sounds like the vocals were whispered for that track. Either way, it’s really subtle. I’m not sure why I like that part of it so much, but I do.
Then there’s that little trick at 2:04. The slight pause. I love it when that happens in a song. And it happens just once.
Waxahatchee will be at SXSW next week for four shows, then a quick tour of the US.
You can buy Cerulean Salt from her label’s web store here in your choice of mp3, CD, or vinyl. While you’re there, get her first record too.