Waxahatchee - Out in the Storm

by Kenzie Fitzpatrick Rating:8 Release Date:2017-07-14

"I spent all my time learning how to defeat you at your own game. It’s embarrassing," are forceful first words from Katie Crutchfield on the opening track of the latest Waxahatchee album, Out in the Storm. In the crashing, guitar-driven 'Never Been Wrong,' Crutchfield muses on the dichotomy of her relationship. “You're smoking and laughing, untethered and carefree / I will unravel when no one sees what I see,” she sings, presumably about a deeply complex relationship. It’s a weighty kickoff to her fourth album under the Waxahatchee moniker – and the second on the Durham, North Carolina-based indie label, Merge Records.

Throughout her musical career (and even harkening back to earlier projects like P.S. Eliot), much of Crutchfield's work has been informed by (and perhaps even a direct result of) her relationships. The subject matter then, should come as no surprise, as many of the album's songs are centered around the dissolution of her relationship. Not only does Crutchfield sound as confident and assertive as ever, but her lyricism has evolved as well. On the mellow, shimmery 'Recite Remorse', she sings, “See, I always gravitate toward those who are unimpressed / I saw you as a big fish / I saw you as a conquest.” For a breakup record especially, Out in the Storm is Waxahatchee's most pointed, direct, and unabashedly in-your-face effort yet. She snarls, “I'd never be a girl you'd like or trust or you'd respect / When I think about it, I want to punch the wall,” on 'Brass Beam.' Lines like these showcase a snarky, angrier side of Crutchfield that is not present in any of her former work. While the tone throughout the album's ten songs is a departure from Crutchfield’s typical style, it’s undoubtedly one that works in her favor.

Where Out in the Storm begins to wane, though, is on '8 Ball' and 'A Little More.' '8 Ball' features a jangly guitar line, but fails to hook listeners in or deliver a lasting message. 'A Little More,' while pleasing, doesn't inspire the kind of feelings as previous songs like 'I Think I Love You,' off of Waxahatchee's magnificent debut, American Weekend. And, as much as I hate to say this, neither song really adds to the album. However, closer 'Fade' recalls Waxahatchee's debut with its instrumental sparsity and raw vulnerability. Moments like these are what make Waxahatchee's music stand out. Out in the Storm stands firm, though, despite its minor blemishes. Sure, the underwhelming songs are, well, underwhelming, but the great songs are great songs. ('Silver,' I’m looking at you.) They are affecting and memorable songs that promise to stay with listeners. In fact, I found myself still thinking about and singing them well after I had turned the album off. If that’s not a testament to an album’s success, I don’t know what is.

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