Katie Crutchfield, otherwise known as Waxahatchee, is a veteran of brooding, introspective lyricism. It’s her plaintive, emotion laid bare that garnered her attention and accolades when her first album, American Weekend, was released in 2012. American Weekend was all raw, strumming guitar and scratchy vocals, and sounded, pleasantly, like it was recorded in her basement. It had a lot of heart and gained her a spot as an indie-emo darling.
The work that followed only continued to show her talent; her sophomore album, Cerulean Salt–which is my favorite and quite possibly an album I would take to a desert island–was all deep bass and slow, thudding drums and had, again, that thoughtful, moody lyricism. There are lines like those from the song “Brother Bryan” (“And we covet the dark, share a cab to the park, and you’ll let me speak of bearings undone, silver hair in the sun, we are only/ thirty percent dead”) which read like poetry.
Her third album, Ivy Tripp, was more polished, more pop-punky, and brushed Crutchfield’s low-quality recording, sad-girl thing under the rug. But it was still good. There are tracks like “Blue,” which harken back to Cerulean Salt’s simple, searching vocals sung over a simple, searching sound. Or “Bonfire,” which starts with just radio static and sonic dissonance, and climbs to a breaking point, when your nerves can’t take it and you want to pull your headphones off. But then Crutchfield’s sticky sweet voice swoops in and all you hear is her eerie, beautiful harmonizing.
This is why the history of Waxahatchee’s excellence makes the latest album, Out in the Storm, a letdown. Although Crutchfield claims Storm is a breakup album, there is none of the raw, gritty, – overwrought emotion there to make you really feel the breakup. The lyricism is beautiful, yet again, but Crutchfield’s vocals are lost against the thrashing guitar and rushed drumming in the background. The instrumentals are flat and neutered-sounding. There are simply too many things going on in each track; a frantic and unpleasant energy uncharacteristic of Crutchfield’s previous work. Even tracks, like “Silver,” that pay homage to her earlier, angrier, angsty work aren’t as good as their predecessors. Maybe that’s the problem: the album is out of the storm. The storm has passed.