black vinyl LP

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On the best album of her career yet, Katie Crutchfield let the country in. The lilt and twang of the backwoods was always there in her delivery of simple, gorgeous pop-punk songs shrunk down to singer-songwriter size, but here it's foregrounded and embraced, resulting in a record that feels like a warm autumn day out by the lake. Or, in its sadder moments, like we're remembering those better days along with her. There's the sun-dappled country-rock of "Can't Do Much," the explosive, effusive love-song chorus of "Lilacs," the driving "ramble of a sigh" of "Hell." It's all impossibly catchy and sweetly sad, which we've come to expect, but there's also a palpable sense of fun, even joy in Katie's songs, which are as open-hearted as the arrangements are breezy and seemingly effortless. The album's centerpiece is "Fire," which is for my money the best song she's ever written, a showcase for her quietly amazing vocal range and her ability to tear-jerk with opaque lyrical phrasing that conjures vivid standalone images ("I could iron out the edges of the darkest sky"), and comes with a vocal performance that conjures bottomless emotion. It's a beauty on a record full of such quiet marvels.

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