Feature: 2010s: On Devastation

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“You love being devastated,” Max said as we drank gin and tonics at my dining room table the night we found out about Hugo’s closing for good. Hugo’s, the bar where Max and I yelled about listening to Moonface during the worst years of our lives, where I yelled about the time I saw Moonface play the entirety of Julia With Blue Jeans On and Spencer Krug sat down at his piano and told us that he’d be playing the songs according to their sadness. I yelled about accidentally sneaking into a bar in Austin where Waxahatchee was playing, then running into Katie Crutchfield in the bathroom and gushing, because when I heard her sing “The radio counts your thoughts,” I recognized the feeling of driving across the South with a lover I could not bear to leave, even though I knew better, the feeling of confusing music with meditation, the feeling of letting 20 or more hours blow through the car and graze my skin, the feeling of calling the whole thing healing. I yelled about Katie singing “You’re the only one I want watching me” the night I dragged my sister to see Waxahatchee with me in Harrisonburg, the first time I heard “La Loose” slowed way the hell down until I could no longer recognize it as a dance number and realized how the words expose a kind of love as doomed as a night with all the stars thrown from the sky.

Call 911, or call my mom, because someone has got to come collect me. This is what I scream to Jo on the phone while wandering the grocery store in velvet and cheetah print and smelling like pussy, or while walking home at two in the morning after thrashing on the floor like a demon at karaoke, or while waiting in the emergency room with a hand needing stitches. What Jo screams back is a promise to flip a table. I call Jo from the show while Lorde covers “New York,” so they can scream along with me all the way from Chicago, “You’re the only motherfucker in the city who can handle me,” then “You’re the only motherfucker in the city who can stand me,” then “You’re the only motherfucker in the city who’d forgive me,” until we disappear from each other’s screens, collapsing and heaving, because we love to mythologize the songs we hear while dancing at shows, or while riding the bus with headphones, or while waiting in line for coffee, because we love to create narrative, and destroy narrative, and because neither of us wants to be alone in the wreckage.

Ocean Vuong asks, “why can’t the language of creativity be the language of regeneration,” and I want to imagine how it would feel to say that a song I love, an album I love, blooms like a magnolia, to say that a song carries me to the river and washes the blood from my knees, to say that an album calls me in from the porch because dinner is hot and waiting on the table.

Would it feel like Titus Andronicus playing “Four Score and Seven” at Strange Matter, everyone in the crowd throwing their arms around each other and singing along with Patrick Stickles, “This is a war we can’t win, after ten thousand years, it’s still us against them,” and everyone proving him wrong by inviting everyone else into the moment, calling everyone else into the movement, making sure no one feels lonely, no one feels forgotten, and no one feels heartbroken, promising to look out for each other and check in on each other and give whatever we can, because the enemy is everywhere, and we will not retreat a single inch, and we will be heard?

Would it feel like Grouper playing in the chapel at the University of Virginia, crouched on the floor over her electronics with static projected in the background, like someone experimenting in their bedroom, recording and looping a cicada, or sharing transmissions from elsewhere in the cosmos, voicemails from beings we have no idea how to conceptualize, or recalling a dream involving a choir singing in the balcony of a church with its doors flung open in the snow? Would it feel like “(2nd Heart Tone) Mary, On the Wall” playing through computer speakers while lighting a candle for the full moon, learning to read the cards arranged on silk, learning a little about the magic, then more about the magic, as the seasons change, struck with a memory of a woman singing on the porch at the beach in the middle of the night? I remember and remember without seeing where to put it down.


Anne Carson writes, in Autobiography of Red, describing Geryon, the winged red monster and gay teen, reacting to a photograph taken by the grandmother of his lover, Herakles, of an erupting volcano, “Geryon did not know why / he kept going back to it. / It was not that he found it an especially pleasing photograph. / It was not that he / did not understand how such photographs are made. / He kept going back to it.” I mean, I would keep going back to it, like I keep going back to a video of Pharmakon performing at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Margaret Chardiet illuminated in red while beating a sheet of metal, then yelling, then howling, then moving into the crowd, like I keep going back the night I saw P.S. Eliot play at Market Hotel, the way they opened with “Broken Record” just like I guessed and played “Cry Uncle” directly into “Bear Named Otis,” the way Katie Crutchfield sings, “I write you letters all the time,” then, “Our parents met on the back seats of Datsuns,” and how it all feels so big and destined in a Southern fashion that I have no idea how to explain other than to describe a wedding on a humid night in September.

No one else worked in the dark room on Friday or Saturday nights, or at least not while I was taking a photo class in college, during fall, which meant I could pick the music. I developed pictures of trash, flyers drifting off a garage, televisions abandoned in the grass, rotten wood leaning against brick. I tried making everything about texture, but I could not compose, and I was shit at figuring out the light. I did what I could, soaking the prints in chemicals, watching the images materialize, listening to St. Vincent singing, then screaming, “Come cut me open,” or listening to Victoria LeGrand singing, “I’ll take care of you,” or listening to Angel Olsen singing, and asking, “Where is my harmony?”

Desire embarrasses me, but watch as I bend over backward until my hands touch the floor, then watch as I fold my legs behind my head. The shape I make, a rainbow cleaved to the ground, where someone could climb for shelter, or the shape I make, a knot to be untangled with both hands.


I bought red pants with a high waist and wide legs to match New Mexico. I mean the desert, terracotta shattering, rose blooming, the mesa jagged against the sky. I mean Patricia Charbonneau in Desert Hearts (dir. Donna Deitch), revving backward down the highway in her black convertible, then opening her porch door until it creaked, looking Helen Shaver up and down as though to say “have mercy.”

Denim on denim, tied and revealing, not giving a shit.

While driving across the desert between Albuquerque and Jemez Springs, I put on One Direction, because the piano in “Steal My Girl” could shred the sky like an angel and crush me. “I don’t exist if I don’t have her. The sun doesn’t shine. The world doesn’t turn.” I want to have a problem with such possessiveness, and I want to have a problem with such patriarchal desire, but I hear the song as cosmic and embarrassing devotion, a feeling that gathers in my throat until I fucking weep. Or, until Chris rolls down the windows, and I yell the song into the air.

Carrie Lorig writes, “I try to put my devastation on the ground. I try to put it on the ground and pay it. My devastation, I pay it.” What I want to know is how. My devastation, pitchers being emptied into a river. My devastation, a window spilling light into the background of a photograph. My devastation, a pit made of weathering steel. I have no idea how to even begin to hold it. I have no idea what I could possibly owe it. Maybe the lavender I found growing everywhere in Albuquerque, or maybe the turquoise rings scattered on the street. Liz Bowen writes, responding to Carrie Lorig, “i want to stop owing my devastation i / think it should pay me / my devastation should make an offer of me / don’t you think my devastation should put me / on the table.” What if my devastation has embodied me. What if my devastation has swallowed me. What if my devastation has emptied me. I have no idea how to tell the difference.

All I can think to do is dive into the river as Craig Finn playing Walt Whitman says, “I rose from the chill ground and folded my soldier well in his blanket, and buried him where he fell,” as Sufjan Stevens sings, “Bury the dead where they’re found.”


Ella Longpre writes, “In an act of forgiveness she excuses herself from the table. You remove the table (throw it against the wall), the table is now what you have done and she has disappeared.” The truth is that Caroline and I pulled the dill, squash, fennel, kale, marigolds, and the garden became what we had done. The truth is that the kitchen became what we had done, the road became what we had done, but what about the marsh in Florida where we saw anhingas darting through the water like snakes and roseate spoonbills probing the reeds, birds we could not have dreamed and colors we could not believe, and what about the stereo playing serpentwithfeet singing, “With you, I can empty myself of all my rivers and become a remarkable sky”?

Hauled ass down the mountain in a Ford Super Duty, closest to a monster truck I will ever drive, while light from the afternoon disintegrated until the world seemed lunar except for the road that I want to remember being red as hell. Found a snake jacket on the trail that Chris wanted, but Elizabeth and I said absolutely not, because you never know what kind of curse might follow you home. I carried one bottle for drinking, one for gathering water from the river, the hot spring, plus grasses and blossoms. Chris and Elizabeth called it a spell bottle. I called it a witch bottle. Magic turned to sludge either way, but it still lives on my dresser with a bottle shaped like a grinning crescent moon. I could say that we were listening to Hop Along, because Chris and I talked about Hop Along the first time we walked his dog along the river, but the truth is that I switched the radio to silence to keep an eye on the mountain.

I look up whether it is legal to shoot a dog. I have to know after hearing Frances Quinlan sing, “Honey, you know I had to shoot that dog you loved so much. You know I had to do it,” and then, reversing, “I know you had to shoot that dog I loved so much. I know you had to do it.” I have to know whether this is business as usual or an emergency. I have to know which is more heartbreaking, or which is more gracious, and whether either can be forgiven.

The 200 Best Songs Of The 2010s

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When this decade began, MP3s still reigned supreme. Now, at the end of it, a song is no longer even a file — it’s ephemera, on every streaming service and available to hear in myriad ways. For better and worse, the song (and the single) have become the norm for the general public’s music consumption. More »

The 100 Best Albums Of The 2010s

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The 100 Best Albums Of The 2010sA decade is an arbitrary measurement. They seem confined, these neat little symmetrical 10-year runs, but it’s only in hindsight that we define them, that their signifiers and trends and shorthand become codified. In reality, there are bleeds, the timbre and events of one chunk of time sliding over the border into another. If you’re … More »

Watch Kevin Morby & Waxahatchee Cover “It Ain’t Me Babe” At Sydney Opera House

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Kevin-Morby-and-WaxahatcheeOn their own, Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield are two of the warmest, strongest voices in indie rock. Together, they are also also an extremely cool couple. And sometimes they play music together. We’ve heard what happens when Morby and Crutchfield get together to cover Everclear, the Velvet Underground, and … More »

The Year Of The EP… Or Is It An Album? Or Is It A “Project”?

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BoygeniusFor once, Vince Staples wasn’t sure what to say. Five days after dropping another incredible collection of songs, the Long Beach rapper and reigning Twitter MVP logged into his account and wrote, “I was about to tell y’all FM! not an album but I don’t even know what an album is anymore so … More »

25 Great EPs From 2018

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Best EPs Of 2018Every year, the parameters for this list get a little more specious. With the rise of streaming services and the decline of physical media, the distinctions between a 7″ and a 12″ have largely faded away. Today, everything is a “project” or a “collection” or (groan) a “playlist.” Artists are still releasing EPs in name, … More »

Waxahatchee announces 2019 tour way out west with Bonny Doon as opener and backing band

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The grind of touring is compared to many things: grand opera, poetry, war. But the truth is often less dramatic and more boring than you would think; interacting with venue-loads of strangers and backstage acquaintances and a lot of waiting around killing time are the main names of the game while on the road. The latter is mostly unavoidable and can twist your melon into unhealthy shapes if you let it. Tour tedium can be lessened greatly by the former, fortunately.

Soon, Katie Crutchfield won’t have much time on tour to sit idly and watch the walls. She’ll be too busy mingling with admiring strangers that multiply exponentially for each new tour and stage mates that will be increasingly familiar with each new date. Detroit’s heart-on-sleeve melodists Bonny Doon have been announced as the opening act AND as Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee backing band for some North American west coast dates in February and March.

And why not? There are few things better than playing your music for happy, enthusiastic fans with happy, enthusiastic musicians you admire. And the fit between Boony Doon and Crutchfield is an ideal one, considering Waxahatchee’s recent rootsier approach. Crutchfield is rightfully jazzed about the dates:

I’m so excited to announce this west coast tour with Bonny Doon. They are, and have long been, one of my favorite bands making music right now. For this tour they will join me on stage as my backing band which will be a really cool re-imagining of songs new and old. I’ll be taking a little time off the road to write so this tour will be a great last round of shows for a while.

Waxahatchee’s latest release is September’s stripped-down, much-lauded Great Thunder EP (Merge). And Bonny Doon’s most recent is their sophomore album Longwave (Woodsist). All future North American and current Australian dates are listed down below, right after a couple of choice musical tasters that’ll never bore your earbuds.

Waxahatchee Australia tour:

11.22.18 – Brisbane, Australia – The Fundry #
11.24.18 – The Range, Australia – Porchland #
11.27.18 – Melbourne, Australia – Corner Hotel #
11.28.18 – Melbourne, Australia – Northcote Social Club #
11.29.18 – Melbourne, Australia – Northcote Social Club #
12.01.18 – Berry, Australia – Fairgrounds Festival
12.02.18 – Sydney, Australia – Sydney Opera House #

# Kevin Morby

Waxahatchee west coast tour:

02.21.18 – Tacoma, WA – Fawcett Hall at Alma Mater ^
02.23.18 – Seattle, WA – St. Mark’s Cathedral ^
02.24.18 – Vancouver, BC – Wise Hall ^
02.25.18 – Portland, OR – Aladdin Theater ^
02.27.18 – San Rafael, CA – Terrapin Crossroads ^
02.28.18 – Visalia, CA – Cellar Door ^
03.01.18 – Los Angeles, CA – Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever ^
03.02.18 – Pioneertown, CA – Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace ^
03.03.18 – San Diego, CA – Irenic ^

^ Bonny Doon


Stream Waxahatchee’s New Great Thunder EP

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WaxahatcheeAs a follow-up to the roaring Out In The Storm, Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield decided to pare back her sound for a new collection of songs called Great Thunder. The name comes from an old project of Crutchfield’s, one that she formed with former Swearin’ bassist Keith Spencer. It’s an act of reclamation, recontextualizing … More »

And now a good joke about Waxahatchee making a “booming statement” with the announcement of their new EP Great Thunder

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Following the release of Out in the Storm a little over a year ago, Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee is poised to take the next step forward… by taking a step back? Well, sort of. Let me explain.

On September 7, Waxahatchee will return to the world of recorded music with their Great Thunder EP, a collection of songs whose origins date back to the project’s Cerulean Salt and Ivy Tripp eras. Crutchfield originally wrote what is now Great Thunder for a different project of hers — the now-dormant, also-named “Great Thunder” Great Thunder — revisiting and reimagining things at Justin Vernon’s studio in Eau Claire, WI with the help of producer Brad Cook.

As opposed the “rock-oriented” Out in the Storm, Great Thunder leans towards a more folk- and country-inspired sound, harkening back to how Waxahatchee originally started: Crutchfield performing solo, quiet, stripped-down songs. Commenting on the whole experience, Crutchfield called the process of making the EP “cathartic” and says the result is “a warm, kind of vibey recording.”

Get your first taste of Great Thunder below by watching the video for “Chapel of Pines.” The clip stars Crutchfield, Kevin Morby’s Kevin Morby, and a few people dressed up in rat costumes (?). You can also check out Great Thunder’s album art (you already saw it up top, but we’re gonna give it to you again no questions asked!) and full tracklisting, as well as an upcoming slate of solo Waxahatchee shows that get going in September.

Remember what else happens in September? …Seriously? Umm, Waxahatchee’s Great Thunder EP comes out! Jesus, have you even been paying attention? September 7 via Merge Records.. Just pre-order it here and get out of my face.

Great Thunder tracklist:

01. Singer’s No Star
02. You’re Welcome
03. Chapel of Pines
04. You Left Me with an Ocean
05. Slow You Down
06. Takes So Much

Waxahatchee tour dates

08.04.18 – Missoula, MT – Travelers’ Rest Festival
09.05.18 – Athens, GA – Georgia Theatre*
09.06.18 – Raleigh, NC – Hopscotch Music Fest
09.08.18 – Washington, DC – Miracle Theatre*
09.09.18 – Brooklyn, NY – The Bell House*
09.10.18 – New York, NY – Le Poisson Rouge*
09.12.18 – Pittsburgh, PA – The Warhol*
09.13.18 – Nelsonville, OH – Stuart’s Opera House*
09.14.18 – Cleveland, OH – Survival Kit Gallery*
09.15.18 – Toronto, ON – Bloor Street United Church*
09.16.18 – Grand Rapids, MI – Wealthy Theatre*
09.17-22.18 – Lincoln, NE – Lincoln Calling
09.18.18 – Madison, WI – Mineral Point Opera House*
09.21.18 – Lawrence, KS – The White Schoolhouse*
09.28.18 – Philadelphia, PA – Philly Music Fest @ World Cafe Live
09.29.18 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre^
09.30.18 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre^
10.02.18 – Phoenix, AZ – The Van Buren^
10.03.18 – San Diego, CA – The Observatory North Park^
10.05.18 –Los Angeles, CA – Greek Theatre^
10.06.18 – San Francisco, CA – The Chapel
10.08.18 – Seattle, WA – Paramount Theatre^
10.09.18 – Vancouver, BC – Vogue Theatre^
10.10.18 – Vancouver, BC – Vogue Theatre^
10.11.18 – Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom^
10.12.18 – Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom^
10.17.18 – Milwaukee, WI – Pabst Theatre^
10.21.18 – Boston, MA – House of Blues^
10.23.18 – Philadelphia, PA – The Fillmore^
10.25.18 – Nashville, TN – Marathon Music Works^
10.27.18 – Austin, TX – Stubb’s^
11.17.18 – Port Chester, NY – The Capitol Theatre (The Complete Last Waltz)

* Night Shop, Anna St. Louis
^ Courtney Barnett

Waxahatchee – “Chapel Of Pines” Video

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A few years ago, Katie Crutchfield was one-half of a group known as Great Thunder, alongside former Swearin’ member and occasional Waxahatchee co-producer Keith Spencer. Around the same time that Cerulean Salt and Ivy Tripp were being made, Great Thunder put out a couple albums, 2012’s Sounds Of Great Thunder and 2013’s Groovy Kind … More »