Waxahatchee’s latest succeeds according to her familiar attention to emotional precision and in pivoting to a more Americana-leaning sound.
After 2017’s dark and brooding Out in the Storm it feels good to have a warm sounding record from Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee project. Saint Cloud takes the essence of the previous Waxahatchee albums and distills them down from shoegaze-adjacent rock hooks to a sharpened Americana sound. It’s a personal album — the story of the long road to recovery for Crutchfield — and the lyrics locate the depths of struggle, especially on songs like “Lilacs” (“When I live a sparse existence, I’ll drop down in the fold/Lean in to an urgent falter, spin silence into gold”) and “Hell” (“I hover above like a deity/But you don’t worship me…Yeah, you strip the illusion, you did it well”). A strong reckoning with personal shortcomings and the mistakes of the past that have caused the people you love great pain doesn’t sound like a pitch for the sound of the summer. But the almost sultry swing of these recordings, as Crutchfield’s voice slides over the clear-toned electric guitar licks, makes this a prime ‘sunglasses on the deck’ listen despite the heaviness. And things do get heavy: “Ruby Falls” explores an emotional rock bottom, as Crutchfield sings of a friend who died from an overdose. “If you cross over tonight/You see beyond the darkest sky/You taste the blood as something wild and alive.” There are moments here that provide respite from sadness too, though: “Witches,” a celebration of the women that Crutchfield feels closest to, namechecks Marlee Grace (her frequent video collaborator), Lindsey Jordan (of Snail Mail), and sister (and one-time bandmate) Allison Crutchfield, ostensibly the people that helped Katie through trauma (“Lindsey’s giving me a little faith about/What tomorrow might bring”). The beauty of this album is the depth of the feelings, the ups and downs, that are sung about. Combine that with the rich guitar and passionate vocals and Saint Cloud solidifies itself as one of the year’s best albums.
Published as part of Ledger Line | Q2 2020 Issue – Part 2.