Another of my favorites for 2013...listened to this about 25 times over the Christmas holidays.
Katie Crutchfield’s voice is the kind of thing you love for its flaws, for the gusts of breath that blow in when she reaches for a high note, for the earnest crack when she goes for volume, for the catch in her throat that sounds like it hurts a little, though not enough to stop her from confiding, whispering urgently about life and love and obstacles. Even here, on a second album amped and distorted with rock instruments, Crutchfield sounds casual, private and unstudied. You feel like you’re eavesdropping on a phone call to a sister (maybe Crutchfield’s twin, Allison, of the also excellent Swearin’), as she mutters, rasps and croons. Her observations are poetic, but also rawly specific, like ideas she’s jotted down, worked on but not fussed over, after a fight with her parents or a slightly-off connection with a boyfriend.
Last year’s American Weekend was all Crutchfield, just guitar and that voice, and there are a couple of tracks on Cerulean Salt that follow that template, “Tangled Envisioning,” and the starkly gorgeous closer, “You’re Damaged.” But most of these songs add friction, density and dissonance with feedback fuzzed guitars, bass, drums and occasional harmonies. For this record, three-fourths of Swearin’ chip in — Keith Spencer and Kyle Gilbridge play bass and drums, and Allison Crutchfield sings some back-up.
WXPN is streaming the whole album here.