Katie Crutchfield doesn’t hold back. On Waxhatchee’s new album Out In The Storm she’s vital and visceral straight off the bat. Opening tune and first single ‘Never Been Wrong’ is a powerful statement of assertion and authenticity, flaws laid bare as a relationship breaks down. “Everyone will hear me complain / Everyone will pity my pain” she sings. “I’ll drink too much / I’ll cause a big scene” while at the same time she sighs “I’ll be nobody”. The light and shade are all there, and nothing is hidden. Fiery guitars and urgent drums alongside delicate guitars and keyboards, this is an album of reality, and Crutchfield has been open about the cathartic nature of the album’s recording and results.
Still holding on to the theme of a break up, as on previous album Ivy Tripp, Out In The Storm sees energy stepped up. Self-reflective but never self-pitying it’s an album that explores the darkest crevices of relationships and life. As Crutchfield said “A running theme on the album is accepting your own imperfections that you’ve been trying really hard to hide.”
The tumbling ‘Silver’ is all about the slippery slope of love falling apart: “I was losing my mind / I was halfway out the door”. ‘8 Ball’ also shimmers with hypnotic quality, opening with an almost tropical feel before round beats looping and pounding, and ‘Hear You’ romps along with passion, looping riffs like a helter skelter. ‘Fade’ is a soft and ambient song, a more typical lovelorn ballad than some of the others with their spiky drives. “I kissed you goodbye/and hid for the rest of your life” she sings with poignant and painful honesty. The ballad ‘Recite Remorse’ shimmers, propelled along by organs and strong vocals with a poignant and wistful edge.
‘Sparks Fly’ is an anthem for embracing it all – “I’m a live wire, electrified’. Sometimes that live wire goes awry. She gets angry – on ‘Brass Beam’ where the line “When I think about it / I wanna punch the wall” is articulated clearly and powerfully. She doesn’t hide a thing. Defiant, bold, blurry – it’s all there. ’A Little More’ is about losing reality in the midst of a love affair, and the ups and downs of it all. “My feelings taper off / I die a little more / I live a little more.” Weary, worn, loud and bold, the whole spectrum of emotions is experienced and articulated.
Recorded at Miner Street Recordings in Philadelphia with John Agnello, a producer, recording engineer, and mixer known for working with Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth amongst others, she’s got a cast of powerful females on board: sister Allison Crutchfield on keyboards and percussion, Katherine Simonetti on bass, Ashley Arnwine on drums; and Katie Harkin of Sleater-Kinney. Sky Larkin also contributed lead guitar.
As expected, it’s a stellar album. What else would Crutchfield do?
Out In The Storm is out now on Merge Records.