2016 end-of-year mentions:

Free Press Houston Top 10 Albums of the Year

Wake the Deaf’s Favourite Albums of 2016

Flagpole’s Top 10 Albums of 2016: “A collaborative effort with multi-instrumentalist John Dieterich, best known as the guitarist for avant-rockers Deerhoof, Came Down a Storm was Claire Cronin’s first new release since she moved to Athens in 2015 to study creative writing at UGA. The eight-song record is a low-key classic, from unnerving opener “The Unnatural” to stormy closer “Dreamt the Sea.” The unexpected mash-up of Cronin’s elegiac poetry with Dieterich’s mischievous arrangements makes for strange, stunning moments, like the funereal doo-wop of “Valentine.”” [Gabe Vodicka]

October 6: Gold Flake Paint: Claire Cronin: A Heart Beats in the Dark

“I can find no words when Claire Cronin sings. Everything and everyone around me has to stop what they’re doing and be quiet so I can focus and, maybe, feel a little less vulnerable. It’s the strangest thing, but the slightest movement or raised voice is a distracting irritation that makes me angry. She seems to channel a connection to something beyond the music, to a rhythm that beats in the background our whole lives, but one which we only really hear in the stillness of our most authentic moments, in grief or humility. The drumming marks the passing of time, beat by beat, a reminder of our death and to try harder in life, while we can.  I suppose in listening, I’m trying to make that rhythm part of my life too. Inevitably it fades away, obliterated by the competing, demanding noises of everything else.

If you’re not already a fan of Claire Cronin’s work, you should know that there’s probably a huge hole in your life you never knew existed. A published poet, the English-Phd-turned folk-singer summons the dark archetypes and anti-heroes from the depths of our unconscious and, spider-like, spins a ghoulish narrative around them. Warnings from beyond, ghostly misadventures and redemption stories are shared like twilight campfire tales, with a voice that was intended for such a purpose… – Trev Elkins”

June 15: Flagpole: “L.A. Transplant Claire Cronin Brings Her Spectral Folk Sounds to Athens”

“When she moved to Athens from Los Angeles last summer, poet and songwriter Claire Cronin says she was struck by the college town’s creative nucleus.

“I like that a lot of the folks from legendary Athens bands are still in town and making things,” she says. “There seems to be a core community of musicians who have lived here for a long time and don’t plan on disappearing. L.A. has a lot of people coming and going, and a lot of people chasing fame for fame’s sake. That’s not a force I’ve really encountered in Athens, thank God.”

Cronin, a PhD candidate in creative writing at UGA, has already made a splash on the local scene with her spare, haunting folk tunes, as heard on Over and Through, a compilation of her material from the past few years released last September by New York indie Ba Da Bing Records. Songs like “Bury My Heart” feature Cronin’s stirring vocals against a backdrop of deliberately plucked acoustic guitar. Her sonic depictions of heartbreak and isolation rival those of the late Jason Molina (Songs: Ohia, Magnolia Electric Co.).

Last month Cronin released the remarkable Came Down a Storm, also via Ba Da Bing. The LP is a collaboration with Deerhoof guitarist John Dieterich, whom she met while sharing a bill at L.A. DIY venue Pehrspace.

“John was on tour with Annie Lewandowski’s band, Powerdove, and I was playing a set with Ezra,” she says, referring to Ezra Buchla, her creative and romantic partner. “John introduced himself to me and we chatted a little, and then he emailed me a few weeks later about working on a project with him.”

Cronin and Dieterich wrote a song together, “The Unnatural,” for an “international art project [that] ended up evaporating before anyone got paid,” she says. But the process proved rewarding for both artists, and they decided to continue working on an album’s worth of material. Since Dieterich was living in New Mexico, says Cronin, “our songwriting process was to work on different parts and ideas separately, and email little recordings back and forth to each other. Sometimes we talked on the phone, but mostly I think we wrote lots of long emails.”

Cronin admits she was hesitant to allow someone else in on her creative process. “I had never written songs collaboratively before,” she says. “It always seemed too scary and psychically intrusive. Songwriting is very mysterious to me.

But the pair had an undeniable chemistry, as the resulting album bears out. “The Unnatural” kicks off Came Down a Storm, and it is the most striking track in Cronin’s discography thus far. The song’s meandering pace belies Cronin’s incisive poetry, as a spectral string arrangement creeps alongside and Dieterich’s nimble guitar work adds melodic and emotional depth.

The rest of the record’s six songs are both beautiful and terrifying—abstract stories of personal victory set against a sea of apocalyptic imagery. It’s music that leaves the listener unsettled, like waking suddenly from a vivid dream. In contrast to Cronin’s past work, Came Down a Storm’s crisp production allows each song to stand on its own, unobscured by tape hiss or muddy mixing.

Lyrically, too, it is sharper. Cronin says she considers it “to be more of a concept album than any of my previous works. The songs are all obsessed with death and the afterlife and begin to create their own world of overlapping narratives and characters.”

In addition to songwriters like Molina, Nick Drake, Chan Marshall and Jeff Mangum, Cronin cites Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Frank Stanford, Sara Nicholson and other contemporary poets as having impacted her own work, which blurs the boundary between music and creative writing in a way many singer-songwriters strive for but few are able to achieve.

“I think of poetry and songwriting as equally meaningful, difficult and necessary,” says Cronin. “They may come from the same inner place, but… there is a different burden on poetry to silently perform emotion and nuance to a reader,” whereas “a singer’s voice can impart these things in how it handles lyrics—transforming a really simple refrain into something profound, for example.”

Although she has been writing and recording music for a long time—“since middle school,” she says—creative writing has been her main focus in recent years. “I guess I never really pursued music in a professional way until now,” she says. “I was more interested in writing songs than touring and promoting myself. This is how I ended up in poetry school.”

Yet Came Down a Storm has begun gathering praise from national outlets, and Cronin and Buchla are just back from a three-week tour in support of the album. (This Saturday’s Caledonia performance will serve as a local release show.) One could read this increased musical focus as evidence that, though Cronin has made her mark on Athens, the town has made its mark on her, too. “It’s funny that I came to UGA to focus on poetry,” she says, “but by the end of my first year I’ve been spending way more time on music. – Gabe Vodicka”

May 31: Vimeo Staff Picks: “The Unnatural” music video

Video by Marcos Sanchez, who also did our album art!

May 30: Tome to the Weather Machine: Review

“There are skeletal passages that retain all of the weight and emotional heft of a voice and acoustic guitar that jump straight from wax into a living room (or bedroom where I saw her perform these). These come in the literary qualities of Cronin’s image-making, the way she can take defeatism out of the inevitability of death and process of dying, as well as her minor key lines and the slight quiver in her voice that rattles from the back of her throat towards the end of passages. – Ryan Hall”

May 25: Wake the Deaf: Review 

“The real success of Down Came a Storm is how Claire Cronin and John Dieterich combine to spin stories and landscapes from their combined talents, every element given equal standing to conjure not only folk tales but the worlds in which they exist. Here you can feel the wind on your skin, hear it move in the trees, smell its scent of salt and earth and ozone. You can feel it move the characters too, propelling them into dark, poetic places where nature rules and comfort can be found in the starkest of elements. – Liam Doyle”

May 25: Detroit Metro Times: Show feature

“Multidisciplinary artist Claire Cronin is here to drop her timeless, expertly executed, haunting folk music. Backing her up on an equally haunting, drone-based accompaniment is Deerhoof guitarist John Dieterich. The result is so good, it’s just been released on her debut album (Come Down a Storm) by Ben Goldberg of the sorely missed publication Badaboom Gramophone’s label Ba Da Bing. If you like Shirley Collins, Neutral Milk Hotel (but don’t like any of the bands who people say sound like Neutral Milk Hotel), and Terry Callier, then you might like Cronin.”

May 19: Brooklyn Vegan: “The Unnatural” music video premiere

May 16: Chicago Reader: Review and show feature

“There’s a devastating starkness to the music of Claire Cronin that connects her to the old-school British folk tradition, especially given the bleak poetry that she sets her gorgeously forlorn melodies to. But there’s also a mix of plaintiveness and sunshine that undoubtedly reveals her loyalties to her American heritage and influences. Her brand-new album, Came Down a Storm (Ba Da Bing), is the most arresting record I’ve heard all year, the haunting imagery of a line like “One season keeps repeating / Scars asking why they’re bleeding” ameliorated by both the dry grain of her voice and the surprising arrangements that make the most of minimal materials. Cronin wrote the six songs during a long-distance collaboration with Deerhoof guitarist John Dieterich, eventually recording with him in Albuquerque. The strings of Heather Trost (A Hawk and a Hacksaw) and her touring partner Ezra Buchla together with Chris Vatalaro’s judicious drumming add depth and counterpoint at powerfully unexpected moments. On opening track “The Unnatural” there’s a sudden passage shaped by lines of weeping strings that inject a blast of unlikely gut-punching beauty, while on “Dark Water” crushing walls of noise surround the lone strumming of a guitar. Ultimately the imaginative guitar playing of Cronin and Dietrich—marked by sudden rhythmic shifts—does the lion’s share of the work, serving up a jagged angularity one doesn’t expect in such a mellifluous singer-songwriter setting. — Peter Margasak”

May 2: Mecca Lecca: Listen Up: Claire Cronin: “Dark Water” 

April 28: Nailed Magazine “Song of the Week” #44

March 30: Tiny Mix Tapes: Album announcement

“Claire Cronin’s debut album Came Down a Storm is coming May 6. It’s a full-band affair, unlike her previous work, and the songs were co-written with Deerhoof guitarist John Dieterich. The album’s coming out on Brooklyn’s Ba Da Bing Records. Expect a fleshed-out sound that’s less dependent on Cronin’s solo guitar.

You can check out the premiere of the record’s first single, “Dark Water,” below. It’s got some damn interesting drones going on.

The English PhD-turned-folksinger will tour this summer and fall alongside Ezra Buchla, who contributed strings to Came Down a Storm. Dates coming soon. In the meantime, pre-order Came Down a Storm right here and seek out Over and Through, her best-of compilation released in 2015. It’s a dark and brooding affair, so brace yourself. – James Constant”

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