'IN PRAISE OF' is a new feature on the rockfeedback website, we explore the critical accliam of our favourite artists and their new album releases.
This week: 'Out In The Storm' explored
"When Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield emerged with 2012's American Weekend, she was a chronicler of life's rawest nerves and realest emotions — dark, gripping stuff born of rootlessness and self-discovery, ideally suited to the album's ragged and unrefined acoustic arrangements. In the years since, Crutchfield has polished Waxahatchee's sound to maximize its glimmering-but-spiky forcefulness, but her words remain as bracing and unsparing as ever. Out In The Storm picks through the ashes of a bad breakup, but Crutchfield is a sharp enough observer of human behavior to turn her lacerating insights inward when necessary. More to the point, she knows that the mechanics of a relationship's end aren't nearly as compelling as where you wind up in the aftermath. In "Silver," the album's relentlessly catchy first single, that idea is embodied in the way the line 'I went out in the storm / I felt the house burning' eventually gives way to a shift in her thinking: 'I went out in the storm / And I'm never returning'." - NPR
"The album catches Crutchfield in a transitional, post-breakup period. And, to be honest, thank goodness, because what ensues is a sharp, pop-inflected record that showcases all of her greatest talents: irresistible songwriting, throwback instrumentation, and a distinctive, wise, listenable vocal that leaves every word dripping with meaning." - Noisey
"Sharp, gorgeous songwriting. The polished production and urgent performances ensure her exorcisms about the end of a relationship are deeply felt." - Pitchfork
"First single 'Silver' is practically a platonic ideal of fired-up, fuzzed-out ’90s-style power-pop. “Sparks Fly” starts out as a slow-crushing acoustic strummer and thanks to keyboard-swirl and chorus hugeness, sounds like something epic within two minutes. “No Question” has rip-snorting glam-guitar leads and a new vengefulness in Crutchfield’s vocals; it’s the first time I can remember her sounding like a straight-up rock star. “Brass Beam” has just a touch of old-school country stomp underneath all its dreamy guitars and harmonies. And closer 'Fade', like the last song on every Waxahatchee album, is a straight-up weeper, a slow and heartfelt acoustic ballad that’s so vulnerable that I almost feel guilty hearing it. But because of Agnello’s sparkling production job, it’s not really a throwback to American Weekend, Crutchfield’s stark and lo-fi solo debut. Instead, at least sonically, it has more to do with the work that Agnello did in the ’80s, working as a recording engineer for hitmakers like Cyndi Lauper and the Outfield, back before he became an indie rock go-to guy. There isn’t one song on the album that’s less than great, and all of them fit together, but it still covers a ton of aesthetic space. You can’t get bored listening to it. Crutchfield is just too good at negotiating the dynamics of an album, at knowing how to tell a story. She takes us across peaks and valleys, and even though she never sits still for long, there’s no whiplash there, either. It’s always clear that we’re listening to one artist with a whole lot to say." - Stereogum
"Out in the Storm is propelled by singular obsessions, a challenge that forces Crutchfield to find new ways of approaching the same situation. Often, she’s actively trying to escape herself. She recalls falling in love “through childish eyes” in the slow, haunting “Fade,” studying her own deterioration as she withers away in a dead-end relationship. In the shimmering “Sparks Fly,” she flees to Berlin and sees herself through her sister’s eyes: full of hope and charisma, “a live wire, electrified.” Halfway through the record, this seems like a happy ending, but its brief moment of escape—staying up all night, drinking, dreading your return home—reminds you that sparks flying can often lead to greater destruction.
Crutchfield has a knack for addressing the way minor frustrations can snowball into deeper troubles over the course of a relationship, seamlessly zooming in and out to assess the damage. She explores how it can fuck up your sense of self, your sense of trust, even your sense of time. “You went back in time today, expecting me to do the same,” she sings in the vicious “No Question,” which culminates with a stark realization that she repeats like a mantra: “It never ends.” “Silver” glides with a breezy modern rock sheen, but its lyrics are haunted by visions of destruction. In hushed, layered harmonies, Crutchfield sings about transformation with a poetic dream logic, expressed through imagistic verse that takes inspiration from Robert Pollard’s songwriting in Guided by Voices." - Pitchfork
"Waxahatchee’s third album - 2015’s ‘Ivy Tripp’ - saw Katie Crutchfield enter cruise control. After the unfiltered heartbreak of her debut ‘American Weekend’ and the breakthrough of follow-up ‘Cerulean Salt’, with her third effort it felt like the Philadelphia-based singer was finally hitting her stride without a hitch.
Something changed before fourth album ‘Out In The Storm’ though; from the album’s title to its equally blustery, bleak cover art, everything is far from rosy here. From the bitter, biting opener of ‘Never Been Wrong’ to the enemy that is the ‘8-Ball’ in track two, there are a few more bumps in the road for Crutchfield than were expected. Luckily, such turbulence has fuelled her her most vital and brilliant work yet.
The album’s highlight comes at its centre. ‘Sparks Fly’ is the most visceral emotion that the Alabama native has ever transmitted. “I take it back, I was never alone / My censored thoughts, mild and monotone,” she begins, knowingly winking back at her early, unfiltered work, before openly admitting and embracing her progression: “Then I see myself through my sister’s eyes / I’m a live wire, electrified.”
‘Hear You’ is helmed by a near-stomach-churning bassline, and there’s a backbone to ‘Out In The Storm’ that’s never appeared on a Waxahatchee record before. The record’s held together by a superglue formed from a mixture of Dinosaur Jr/Sonic Youth producer John Agnello’s influence and the undeniably turbulent situations that shaped the record - it’s unflinching.
The elements needed to make Katie Crutchfield one of the greatest songwriters in indie rock have always been present, just not slotted together perfectly. When they do so on large amounts of ‘Out In The Storm’, the record provides one of the most satisfying pinnacles of the year." - DIY
Waxahatchee perform at The Garage, 4 September.
w/ Support from Katie's sister and company; Allison Crutchfield and the Fizz