Music Quickspins

QUICKSPINS: Waxahatchee — Tigers Blood

Katie Crutchfield’s piercingly introspective album was released on March 22.

Hailing from Alabama, Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield takes her name from the sprawling creek that runs adjacent to her childhood home. Given this history, it’s hardly surprising that her latest project is staged against a backdrop of pastoral motifs, bolstered by intricate guitar licks and poignantly fraught lyrics. A homegrown twang snakes through Tigers Blood, reminiscent of her previous album, Saint Cloud, which sees Crutchfield at her most reflective.

The first four songs on Tigers Blood, with the exception of the final eponymous track, represent the album’s strongest stretch, beginning with “3 Sisters,” a mournful ballad written with the same devastating specificity as prime Taylor Swift: “You drive like you’re wanted in four states.” The track benefits from the expertise of Wisconsin producer Brad Cook, a frequent Indie collaborator who has previously worked with the likes of Bon Iver (that’s him, on piano and guitar, in 22, A Million) and Snail Mail. “If you’re not living, then you’re dying,” a lyric delivered on the back half of the track, seems to encompass the album’s central artistic and moral value proposition. 

“Evil Spawn” is a joyful exercise in self-flagellation, where deficiencies represent opportunities for play. You can hear Crutchfield’s grin as she playfully suggests, “There ain’t nothing to it babe, we can roll around in the disarray.” 

The album’s fourth track, “Right Back to It” engages in the same kind of blithesome world-building, and one only needs to watch the music video to experience the earthy grandeur of Crutchfield’s vision. MJ Lederman, who provides the tight guitar grooves and backup vocals, pilots a pontoon boat while Crutchfield sings; the facial expressions deployed as she delivers her lyrics are gorgeously defiant, suggesting a story more turbulent than the tranquil everglades-esq swampland which surrounds her might suggest. 

The album closes with “Tiger’s Blood,” whose title is an ode to the shaved ice flavour and its messy strawberry dribblings, a recurring motif that gestures towards a return to childlike innocence. It’s a track seeping with nostalgia, a powerful force which animates Crutchfield’s gentle croons: “We were young for so long, seersuckers of time.”  

There is nothing glossy or presumptuous about Waxahachie. Crutchfield’s charm lies in the ability to bring her listeners down to earth with her, and although you might emerge with dusty jeans and muddied fingernails, you’ll somehow be breathlessly happy about it. With Tigers Blood, one feels Crutchfield is content to sit on the sidelines and watch as other contemporary artists strive for relevance in a musical landscape characterized by the proliferation of robust metanarratives about culture. A breath of fresh air, Waxahatchee’s latest release is a triumph of self-recognition and frisky optimism. 


Trial track: Lone Star Lake

Music Quickspins

QUICKSPIN: Néhémie — World of Roses

The rising Montréal singer wears her heart on her sleeve in her debut EP. 

“I can love me better.” This lyric, which opens Montreal-born R&B singer Néhémie’s latest EP, World of Roses on the first song “Me (Freestyle),” perfectly encapsulates the ethos of her latest project. 

Though we can hear traces of SZA’s brutal honesty, Jhene Aiko’s honeyed vibrato, and Sabrina Claudio’s trance-like rhythms in Néhémie’s music, her World of Roses radiates the unmistakable self-confidence of an artist ready to create on her own terms. 

She is surrounded by the infrastructure to make it happen, too. Both of her parents are music lovers, “always playing jazz and gospel around the house,” she says. Her brother Gabriel is also an artist, and her sister is her manager. Music was so ubiquitous to her upbringing that she says: “It took me a while to feel like I was talented at it because everyone around me was into music so it didn’t feel like something special that I should pursue.” 

It wasn’t until high school that she began writing music seriously. “Before that, I was trying, but I didn’t really have much to say,” she says. “In high school, it really became this outlet for me, this way of expressing and understanding my emotions.” 

Néhémie was candid about the difficulties experienced by many during their teenage years. “Puberty is a whole thing, and you feel everything so strongly, and you have all these emotions… you don’t understand it because it’s so different from when you were a kid.” The central question, she says, was: “Who am I now?”

World of Roses begins with “Me (Freestyle)” a self-love anthem in which the artist revels in her own sensuality, proudly proclaiming: “I know I’m the one… When it comes to me, I don’t play.” Lush harmonies buoy the pure, serene seduction of her delivery, a quality possessed by most of the tracks on the EP. 

The next track “Ode to Love,” begins with swirling instrumentals before the listener is submerged within its dark, breathless world. Georgia rapper and producer Zahmir comes through on the back half of the track and provides welcome grounding with a flow that is both animated and spacious, à la Bryson Tiller. 

“Run” featuring Montreal rapper SLM has all the bombast of “Bust Your Windows” by Jazmine Sullivan, one of Néhémie’s cited influences. It seduces you with its harmonies before the singer playfully threatens: “Boy, you better run.”

While Néhémie is an artist who consumes music broadly, she says that flexibility is the key to maintaining a consistent stream of creative fodder. “My only rule is to stay open to where the inspiration may come from,” she says, even if that means waking up in the middle of the night to jot down an idea. 

Her song “Typing,” was a product of this very process, exemplary of an artist’s need to strike while the proverbial iron is hot. Néhémie explains that since she had already turned in the EP, the song wasn’t originally planned to be on the project. She felt “super inspired” after hearing the beat, however, and decided to freestyle through what became the first version of the song. In the end, she decided “I just had to do it, and I don’t regret it. I think it just makes sense.” 

“Typing” is interesting for another reason—adding to the richness of the track’s vocals is the voice of Néhémie’s brother Gabriel, who put out an EP of his own in 2023 titled Summer Thoughts Fall Feelings under the name JBRL.

Keep an eye out for the Néhémie this year. She says to expect more shows in 2024, the result of her desire to “bring the project to life with performances and just connect with people more.” And, she says, there will definitely be more music.

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