The Best Albums of 2013, #16

band01Waxahatchee, Cerulean Salt

I’m finding the older I get, the more I want new music to sound the way it used to. Yeah, just like the boomers before us. It’s pathetic and unhealthy – after all, popular music has to progress rather than regress – but inescapable, as most current trends, especially in indie rock, have no effect on me whatsoever. I want my metal to sound like it came from 1984, and I want my indie rock to sound like it came from 1994. So pardon me when I say Waxahatchee’s second album scratched that itch, as far as indie rock goes anyway. But make no mistake, for all the minimalism, for all the hushed, flat, kind of shy-sounding singing of Katie Crutchfield, for the bare-bones accompaniment of bass, drums, and fuzzed-out guitars to go along with the plaintively-played acoustic guitar, this album transcends all ‘90sness thanks to Crutchfield’s persona, which at first seems distant and detached but winds up reeling you in. Her songs are so achingly sad, and even worse, desperately trying to put a smile on a sad story but never quite managing, and delivered in a slightly raspy voice often hushed, sometimes daring to sound more forceful, but never for very long. More than anything, though, Crutchfield is a poet, and her little sketches, which never run for much longer than three minutes, are vivid and devastating, fleeting glimpses of everyday sadness. Never maudlin, never wallowing, just quick, haiku-like snapshots, and then on to the next one. You can’t help but follow her along.