Waxahatchee's American Weekend was my favorite record of 2012, an 11-song collection of downcast acoustic-guitar ballads laced with raw, pointed poetry, home-recorded over a week at Katie Crutchfield's childhood home in Birmingham, Alabama. Penned and played solely by the former P.S. Eliot front-grrrl, it's a mostly dark and dismal record about being young and confused and transient, about the sorts of loveless inner crises that might haunt someone who's spent the better part of their young adult life on the road.
Early in 2013, Crutchfield as Waxahatchee will release her sophomore follow-up, Cerulean Salt, an apt title considering the sorts of blues she's still singing throughout, and the way each story-song plays out like a salted open wound. "Waxahatchee is a creek my parents have a house on," she says, explaining the inspiration for her new LP. "I spent a lot of my childhood there. A lot of it has a lot of imagery of that and my childhood there and things I've experienced. It's sort of a look at your childhood and this realization that it's over now and you're never going to feel that innocence or exhilaration again."
Aesthetically, it's a departure from her debut, balancing the same sentiments with tighter, more expansive production, and a new confidence and clarity, ranging from hi-fi crunchy indie-rockers like "Coast to Coast" (the closest anyone's come to writing a P.S. Eliot song since the group disbanded) to the stark, echoing drum-and-bass of "Brother Bryan."
But despite refining her sound here, Crutchfield's lyrics are still what makes this album addictive. It's hard to notice the varied styles at first, when the lyrics are this unapologetically piercing. "The last one I wrote really quickly, two years ago," says Crutchfield. "This one, I worked on writing it for six months to almost a year, which for me is a really long time. I don't usually spend that much time writing records."
She also sought out assistance from her roommates, who play in Swearin'. Her twin sister, Allison Crutchfield, sings on "Blue Pt. II," and Kyle Gilbride recorded the album.
Starting February 2 in Burlington, Vermont, I'll be meeting up with Crutchfield for one week of her tour around New England, passing through New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, as well as New York. Joining us on this mini-tour will be Joe Steinhardt, the founder of Waxahatchee's label, Don Giovanni, a New Brunswick–based punk imprint also home to Screaming Females, Shellshag, and Hilly Eye. The label turns 10 this year, and this weeklong adventure with Waxahatchee culminates at Don Giovanni's annual showcase in Brooklyn.
Go to thePhoenix.com/onthedownload throughout the week to check out Liz Pelly's travels with Waxahatchee on their current tour, including show updates, photos, and videos from the clubs and house shows.