Published Mar 24, 2020Waxahatchee (aka Katie Crutchfield) built her sound on lo-fi home-recorded records like American Weekend and Cerulean Salt, progressed to pop-leaning indie rock on Ivy Tripp, then experimented with a full-band and full-blown distortion on Out in the Storm. On her latest album, Saint Cloud, Crutchfield strips it all back and embraces her Americana influences — and the results are beautiful.
Saint Cloud opens with a sprinkling of digital noise on "Oxbow" before settling into the twangier sound that permeates the 11-song record. Lead single "Fire" is an early standout that hears Crutchfield's voice like we've never heard it before. It's more self-assured than ever, up at the front of the mix and carrying Crutchfield's poetry, weaving it together with unexpected melodies throughout and even toying with a Dylan-esque drawl on tracks like "Lilacs."
There's a road-weariness to her lyrics this time around ("Run ourselves ragged town to town / Chasing uncertainty around, a siren sound," she sings on "The Eye") and an acknowledgement of the tortured artist trope ("If I burn out like a light bulb, they'll say she wasn't meant for that life / They'll put it all in a capsule and save it for a dark night," she sings on "Arkadelphia"). But there's also a freedom we've rarely heard from Crutchfield — largely in part to her decision to get sober.
The sound is clearer and brighter, her voice stronger and the songs hear her battling and even conquering some of her darkest demons, coming out as a healthier and happier person on the other side.
Saint Cloud is a refreshing listen from an exceptional singer-songwriter that shatters the myth of hard-living artists and proves that great artists can make great art without a drink. (Merge)