On "Out in the Storm", Katie Crutchfield and her formidable band, including sister Allison on keys and percussion, and Sleater-Kinney touring guitarist, Katie Harkin on lead guitar, have created an elemental, cathartic release. It's an exorcism of perhaps the strongest collaborative presence on the album, the looming, silent-but-present spectre of Crutchfield's ex-partner, who contrived to catalyse such wretchedness and desolation in the first place.
Relentless, vengeful ire can easily make an album feel like you've had a hairdryer turned on you, leaving the listener with little reward but the sweats, dry, startled eyes and shocked locks. Crutchfield takes a different route, converting her anger into confessional self-redemption. Within that, she acknowledges how some of her frustrations were caused by her own imperfections, ones she feels she concealed on her quieter, more vulnerable previous album, "Ivy Tripp". With Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth producer, John Agnello, at the helm for this recording, Crutchfield felt able to push herself emotionally, as well as bringing a more tempestuous sonic breadth into effect.
What a start "Never Been Wrong" is! A driving rock rant, it documents the sort of person who is so convinced of their own superiority and rectitude that it becomes a self-defeating waste of time, trying to defeat them at their own game. "No Question", as well as having a pleasant Best-Coast-sings-Nick-Cave element of "Dig, Lazarus, Dig!" to it, epitomises how toxic lovers use the past against us, with 'You went back in time today, expecting me to do the same.' Similarly, "Hear You" has an imposing synth rumble, a dominant, unavoidable, uncompromising presence, like the recipient of the words, 'I don't wanna hear you' seems to have been.
Continue reading: Waxahatchee - Out in the Storm Album Review
I doubt that 2015 will be remembered for being dominated by one particular musical genre. It seems the culture of digital downloads has made it more difficult for a movement to coalesce in a marketplace brimming with choice.
I'd argue though that the last twelve months has seen the strongest showing from female artists across the board for many years. Many acts would easily have made my year-end list on a different day, and many of them cantered on a strong female voice. Solo artists like Joanna Newsom, Laura Marling, and Lana Del Rey all presented strong albums. Even Florence Welch's third album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, which didn't quite live up to her previous efforts in my opinion, featured some glorious moments. I debated for a long time whether to include Courtney Barnett's Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit in my ten best records list. Ultimately it sits just outside for me, although her unique delivery and kitchen sink drama approach is wonderfully endearing. That Adele's 25 closed the year on a strong note, just underlined the trend that had been building all year. It's not just solo artists though; the likes of: Best Coast, Girlpool, Bully, and Wolf Alice, all demonstrated that women were back in the spotlight.
Other bands made welcome returns, Blur in particular were my live highlight of the year, thanks to Graham Coxon's master class on stage. Their album The Magic Whip didn't quite make the cut for my list in the end, compared to most other years it would have. Interestingly it was also a year where side projects came to fruition for well-known artists. Dan Auerbach's The Arcs produced their first studio material, as did Matt Berninger's El Vy. Both albums had their moments, but didn't quite feel fully realised in their own right. Elsewhere the likes of Lucero, Jason Isbell, and Ben Folds produced albums that matched their finest work. My love of bands from Philadelphia also continued thanks to Beach Slang's debut The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us and Hop Along's third album Painted Shut. If there were disappointment's I had, it was those records that were simply good and not as great as you'd hoped. The Decemberists, Frank Turner, Wilco, and Death Cab For Cutie's albums all fell into that category for me. By no means bad, the material on those albums struggled to compete with their high watermarks of previous years. I was especially curious about Ryan Adams' ambitious reinterpretation of the entirety of Taylor Swift's 1989, the result didn't quite live up to the promise it had on the drawing board though. It may have introduced a different audience to some excellent songs, but Adams managed to strip some of the fun out of the arrangements in the process. By the time there were Father John Misty covers of Adams' recordings on the Internet, it felt like the Swift fan club didn't need any more famous members.
Then there were the records you felt you should love, but for whatever reason they just didn't connect on a personal level. Drake and Father John Misty aka Josh Tillman produced records that despite the hype I just didn't manage to fall in love with. Tilman's 'Bored In The USA' was astute social commentary with it's tongue firmly in its cheek, but it didn't hook me into the album as a whole. Perhaps the biggest record in this category for me is Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly. It's technically brilliant, ambitious, has great rhymes, and straddles so many genres that it shouldn't be as cohesive as it is. The problem was, it left me cold. It almost felt as if Lamar wanted to prove he could produce something that ticked all the boxes he thought he should, rather than writing the record he wanted to. Perhaps with time I'll grow to love these albums, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Continue reading: Jim Pusey's Top 10 Albums Of 2015
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.