Three years cover the industry standard album cycle (release single, promote, release album, tour, release another single, tour some more, done) with some change to record a follow-up, but Katie Crutchfield could essentially fit Waxahatchee’s key moments in that span. In fact, today is the 3rd anniversary of American Weekend, her beloved debut LP still celebrated by basement venues and NPR alike. The Garageband-produced Weekend sounds like, well, it was recorded over a weekend for personal posterity, but Crutchfield’s years in the sibling duo P.S. Elliot ensured a honed in, substantial kind of songwriting. “Catfish” is relentlessly aching with every meek strum and wobbly high note, “Be Good” is the kind of likable, soundtrack-ready anthem everyone in the current lo-fi scene wishes they wrote, and Weekend as a whole is without a single moment of excess.
Crutchfield followed it up a year later with Cerulean Salt, the project’s first full-band endeavor. I half-expected the jump from home recording to studio-recorded to be met with inane “purists” begging her to devolve, but Salt was put on every major year end list that mattered in 2013 and only widened her devoted fan base further. A year and a half after from Salt, we’re greeted with “Air” from her upcoming third LP, Ivy Tripp, coming out on indie giant, Merge Records. Although Waxahatchee only benefitted from a fuller sound on Salt, “Air” reminds me that Crutchfield works best in those quieter, restrained moments. Propelled by sputtering, but unobtrusive drums and angelic “ooh’s,” the addition of synthesizers in its chorus feels massive as Crutchfield guiltily declares realization like, “you are patiently giving me every answer as I roam free.” Massive may not even be the right word here, as “Air” carries the same mournful pace throughout, sounding less anthemic and more like a late-night apology on the road. Intimacy is what Waxahatchee is about though and, while it won’t supplant songs like “Be Good” or “Coast to Coast” for biggest crowd singalong, it’s the kind of song you didn’t realize all your teary-eyed mixtapes needed this winter.