Katie Crutchfield returns with a mini album of recordings she started whilst making her previous albums Cerulean Salt and Ivy Tripp. These were more experimental jams recorded with a collective called Great Thunder that is no longer active. Fascinated by the material Crutchfield took it into the studio and reworked it resulting in a stripped down collection closer to her folk and country roots than to her recent more pop/rock material.
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For me the still very good Waxahatchee has never bested her first ever record, ‘American Weekend’. It’s almost unfair to make that statement, considering that record was a one-person home recording project and each follow-up has been an exploration and development of a rock band sound. Still, it’s those sparser moments of self-isolation that I go back to, and ‘Great Thunder’ -- a quieter, cozier record of dulcet piano twinklings and acoustic strums -- is willing to take me there.
These songs were written alongside ‘Cerulean Salt’ and ‘Ivy Tripp’, as frontwoman and principal songwriter Katie Crutchfield was taking her sound out of hibernation into a world of flourishes and arrangements and, you know, drums. On this EP, though, they’re reimagined as weekend country pop, recalling sparsity of her old work but marked by a clean, lovely, living room production. It’s maybe the clearest we’ve ever heard Crutchfield -- unlike the washed out vibe of ‘Out In the Storm’, this companion is given a production so clear and unfiltered it feels like the listener is sat next to her taking piano lessons.
Making music this way suits Crutchfield just fine: the piano tunes on this record meander, content to fill the room and provide a little extra warmth to your day. Occasionally they’re given a bit of waking up by strings and backing vocals, but these slow, meditative pieces are happy to live without the punch of a normal Waxahatchee tune. “Slow You Down” i an outlier; an active and melodic race to the finish, it raises the record’s roof with a lovely dynamic lift brought about by keyboards, gleefully shaken percussion and a slick guitar riff. It’s one moment of gold amidst a record of lovely, absent-minded ballads, sketched rather than scored.
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