Cerulean Salt expands on the starkly personal anecdotes about failed relationships, family, and singer Kate Crutchfield’s often self-destructive nature on display on Waxahatchee’s 2012 debut, American Weekend, a collection of minimalist folk tunes recorded in her childhood home in Alabama. Enlisting the help of a full three-piece band on most of the tracks, Crutchfield’s comparatively polished studio recordings here hinge on the same emotional gravitas that’s come to define Waxahatchee.
Crutchfield paints portraits of restlessness and yearning not unlike Lena’s Dunham’s Girls, but unlike those plaguing the HBO show’s titular twentysomethings, Crutchfield’s woes are far more fleeting, like on “Coast to Coast,” which reveals a wanderlust to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It’s clear that she often feels like an albatross, singing about feeling out of place in social situations, relationships, and even among her own peers. On “Blue Pt. II,” a sweetly self-deprecating lullaby, she sings about her inability to shy away from toxic relationships, while on “Misery Over Dispute,” she describes a particularly defeating summer evening over a barrage of fuzzed-out guitar riffs, ending with the disquieting but mesmerizing line, “I whisper and walked on eggshells just to choose misery over dispute.”
Dropping the lo-fi, acoustic aesthetic of American Weekend for a slicker, plugged-in sound, Waxahatchee’s production values may sound more grown up on Cerulean Salt, but the self-deprecating anxieties and quarter-life ennui still seeps from each song. This is an album of unlikely dichotomies: of confidence and vulnerability, of yearning and forgetting, and of the simultaneous danger and attractiveness of self-destruction.