tue 27/02/2024

Album: Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud

Album: Waxahatchee - Saint Cloud

A journey of sobriety and self-acceptance, by way of Memphis and New York

Waxahatchee is ready to take you places

Waxahatchee’s fifth album wasn’t intended as an escapist fantasy. Written shortly after Katie Crutchfield decided to get sober, Saint Cloud documents a journey towards self-acceptance; one woman’s reckoning with her past and its impact on the people she loves.

But it’s a journey that is as literal as it is metaphysical, Crutchfield’s vivid lyrics and wide-open arrangements painting pictures of the places she has seen along the way: Memphis glowing in the sunlight as if on fire; tomatoes sold by the bag on a roadside in Alabama; homesickness on the crowded streets of Tennessee.

After evolving, from the lo-fi sound that characterised the early days of her solo project, to a full-throated indie rock act on 2017’s Out in the Storm, Waxahatchee’s music veers off into country and folk on this album, an expansive Americana which leaves space for observational tangent in Crutchfield’s lyrics. “I tell this story every time,” she muses, on the stripped back blues of “Ruby Falls”; “When the picture fades, the years will make us calm”.

Crutchfield’s enunciation is pure poetry: the weight that she gives to the word “fire” in the song of the same name over the minimalist pulse of the music is a moment of magic, given the weight of a prayer about learning to love yourself unconditionally. “Lilacs” channels early Dylan through an extended metaphor about learning to recognise – and break out of – negative thought patterns, and “War” needs listened to on headphones, all the better to pick out the lyrical pep talk from the rollicking backing of Detroit country band Bonny Doon.

If sobriety and self-examination have unlocked Crutchfield’s path, there is acknowledgement of external sources of contentment too. Hear her lyrically unspool on “Can’t Do Much”, the simplicity of her “love you til the day I die” refrain over guitars with the irresistible lilt of a honky tonk torch song; or, on “The Eye”, find a restless kind of solidarity in a creative and romantic partnership. Journey’s end is New York City, mind wandering on the M train while the city fades in the background: a clear voice, a muted guitar, the self-possession to face whatever comes next.

Below: hear "Fire" by Waxahatchee

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