Tag Archives: Waxahatchee

Sound ‘Round: Amber Coffman / Waxahatchee

Women staking their claim with a burgeoning sound

Amber Coffman – City of No Reply (Columbia)

A brief backstory concerning the lives of the semi-rich and semi-famous. Coffman first split with boyfriend/boss/Dirty Projectors impresario Dave Longstreth in 2012 only to reunite with him as a lover and collaborator two years later. Things irreparably soured in 2016 while Longstreth helped prep this solo debut as a producer. He soon kicked Coffman out of his band and wrote a typically dense breakup album more concerned with being smart than cathartic. Coffman says good riddance. Though her former beau gets a co-writing credit on every track, the rewards here are all hers, as is the musical vision. With no desire for sour grapes or the need to self-aggrandize, her supple soprano disavows the ornate art-pop coveted by intellectuals like her ex and articulates in plain English and plainer arrangements regarding both sides of the romantic coin. Just as refreshing as her new-found knack for simplicity is her ability to let the music say more with less. The surprises come in small packages: be it sly use of auto-tune on the opener, the warm breath of a horn section near the finale, or synths that warble and burp but don’t diminish her performance. She states her goal from the get-go. “All I want is to feel strong,” she sings. The rest is more of the same. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “All To Myself” / “Do You Believe” / “City of No Reply”

Waxahatchee – Out of the Storm (Merge)

Humanity cried out for another Katie Crutchfield solo record like it cried out for the damn movie about emojis. Much of her music this decade is comprised of drab austerity and reverb-drenched confessionals concerning bad romance. The songs are often as monotone as her target market — mainly white college kids and young adults who feign sadness and self-pity for the retweets. But after three albums and five years of rinsing, reusing and recycling old tropes comes 10 songs that recall days spent alongside twin sister Alison in femme-punk outfit, P.S. Eliot. Tired of dull bedroom pop and half-assed shoegazing, the opening 16 seconds features a spirited blast of distortion and robust drumming that’s controlled and tempered but more driving and instantaneous than anything the Japandroids cobbled together this year. The musical achievements trickle into other elements, too. Though her subject matter is familiar, Crutchfield’s songwriting is more assured, less vague and not afraid to be hopeful. “When I fall I will not be ashamed at all,” precedes “You’ll have your truth, I’ll have mine,” precedes “I tell the truth / I feel amazing today.” A bolstered sound and a clearer perspective all in just over 30 minutes. Here’s hoping the good vibes last. We deserve it, and she does too. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Silver” / “Brass Beam” / “Never Been Wrong”

Sound ‘Round: Charles Bradley / Waxahatchee

Crying for love – or in his case, screaming for it. 

Charles Bradley – Victim of Love (Daptone)

charles bradley - victim of loveIt’s hard to call this Florida-born soul man from New York a nostalgia act seeing as he released his first album at the age of 62. If anything, he’s late to the party. And while I get the sense a certain percentage of his following consists of hipsters and Dad-rock enthusiasts who appreciate the legacy of Stax more than the actual merit of Bradley’s music, let it be said there is merit here nonetheless. His aching howl, well-aged and robust, bares the weight of several lost decades spent in obscure poverty, and his loose arrangements, reliant on beats and brass rather than rigid structure, are brisk enough to avoid boredom. I prefer him more when he bemoans his lonesome heart and quits with the socially conscience bits – the sappy eco-peril of “Hurricane” is rife with empty metaphors and the psychedelic twirl of “Confusion” is directionless. He takes his eye off the streets in the first half, where he keeps it close to home with a pair of upbeat openers concerning Mrs. Right, two down-and-out ballads where she becomes Mrs. Wrong, a brief foray into funk, and a well-placed instrumental which allows room for his expert backing band room to flex. GRADE: B+

Key Tracks: You Put the Flame on It” / “Victim of Love” / “Strictly Reserved For You

Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt (Don Giovanni)

Waxahatchee - Cerulean SaltKatie Crutchfield’s second effort under the Waxahatchee moniker is every bit as minimal as last year’s debut. But where she was privy to unpolished and creaky confessionals, here her ruminations on love are more finalized, her songwriting more assured and her simple voice left unhindered by silly distortion tricks. Still too hung up on austerity and the lone hum of a single guitar, even the most succinct songs tend to drag. When she mixes in drums and amps, it mucks up the pace rather than advancing it. And though she trips herself up in her own simplicity at times, her understated lyrics see her through to the end. Start with the soft charm of “Tangled Envisioning,” so poetic it almost disguises its morbid subject matter, get acclimated, and then proceed from the beginning, where she tells the world about a romantic reconciliation through heavy breathing behind hollow bedroom walls. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “Tangled Envisioning” / “Hollow Bedroom” / “Lips and Limbs