When I read a few years back that Katie Crutchfield, the singer/songwriter of Waxahatchee, had a tattoo of one of my favourite bands, Rilo Kiley, I was immediately intrigued to listen to the band. The problem of course is then your expectations are so high you start thinking that they will fill the void of said dearly departed group and well, that is an impossible task. Therefore I’ve always found listening to this band a slight disappointment, interesting work but not exceptional. This new album Out in the Storm is a welcome step up from the previous bedroom albums, recorded with a producer in a studio and featuring their best songs to date.
It’s nice to hear an artist whose songs have increased sonic ambition but the guitars are still central to the sound. The vocals are also much improved throughout this album and that has always been an issue for me in the past. What is intriguing is that she has still resisted the typical tropes of catchy choruses and hooks, despite the attempt at more commercial indie rock.
The opening song Never Been Wrong rocks out and sound huge, her voice never better. There is a mature lyrical complexity here and throughout this album. It’s like a series of poems about a relationship breakdown but that does mean it’s not an easy singalong. There’s a lot of words here and the lack of repeated lines and choruses does mean that the best lines sometimes get a little lost and make the songs harder to connect with immediately.
Silver uses some sweet ‘oohs’ to beautiful effect, with a Strokes feel to the music. The album title is derived from this song ‘I went out in the storm/And I’m never returning’. You feel that emotional confusion about dealing with the end of who you thought you were, just wanting to let your whole self go. It’s an exhilarating listen.
Recite Remorse has a slowed down feel, as though we are going to get a confession. For me this song does lack that central melody to elevate it and make it memorable as a song. It works as part of the narrative of the album but at this point you feel like the album’s themes have become stuck on repeat – another song about this awful guy.
Therefore Sparks Fly is a welcome relief, a song about escaping from who you are. It’s a drinking song for indie sisters everywhere. Brass Beam has a retro indie pop feel and is the best thing on the album. I just want to sing my songs and sleep through the night, seems like the kind of words to live by.
The final few songs turn introspective, especially A Little More & Fade. They start to think about the future. Fade is stunning really – the best lyrics on the album ‘I laid down next to you/ for three years shedding my skin/dreaming about the potential/the person I could have been’. A chilling analysis of how you can lose yourself in a toxic relationship. You just hope this album is the exorcism she needs to recover and move on.
While this album should win her some more fans I doubt it is going to have much cross over appeal, although it has more potential than other Pitchfork favourites Big Thief or Girlpool. But ‘Out in the Storm‘ is still the best Waxahatchee album to date, lyrically challenging and deeply personal. And that is definitely something to celebrate.