Waxahatchee makes her voice heard on Out in the Storm

Out in the StormThere’s a pivotal scene that closes out the first season of Spaced, the cult TV debut of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and director Edgar Wright, in which Tim has an epiphany waiting for his ex-girlfriend to arrive at the bar. “It's like walking in on yourself, you know? Like, ‘What are you doing?’ That's how I felt tonight feeling my heart miss a beat every time the door opened. ‘What the fuck are you doing?’” On her fourth album as Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm, Katie Crutchfield’s natural introspection transcends navel-gazing to place distance between herself and a toxic relationship, and the effect is both vituperative and life-affirming: in its most brutally honest scenes, we catch the Alabama native walking in on herself.

It’s also utterly sincere. “Never Been Wrong” is one of the most glorious indie rock openers in recent memory, recalling the bright-eyed fuzz of her P.S. Eliot days, the band she formed in 2007 with her twin sister Allison. In a recent conversation with Katie, I highlighted what I assumed to be sarcastic self-deprecation in one of its lines: “Everyone will hear me complain, everyone will pity my pain.” There was no humour intended, it seems, which becomes less of a surprise as the record reveals itself across repeat listens; Out in the Storm may be Waxahatchee's brightest musical excursion to date, but the lyrical content remains charcoal black. “I’ve always been really into the juxtaposition of pop music with really dark, sad lyrics,” she says, and that contrast is sharper than ever.

At its most autobiographical, Crutchfield’s primary battle feels less focused on vindication, but rather on having her voice heard at all. There are several lyrical scenes that deal with being heard and not heard, seen and not seen, emotionally acknowledged and gaslighted. “Hear You” and “Recite Remorse” are relatively explicit, talking of permissions and conquests, though “Sparks Fly” is perhaps the album’s emotional epicentre, recounting a trip to Berlin with Allison where she finally sees herself through her sister’s eyes. Musically it's another expansive, major-chord outing that transports the record's optimistic spirit into something positively anthemic; in the context of its surrounding material, only the magnificent "Silver" matches it for quality, a single that bears the influence of Katie Harkin (who contributes guitar here) and her work with Sleater-Kinney.

But perhaps “Fade” paints the clearest picture of Waxahatchee at the album’s close: “You ring me up, I tell the truth: I feel amazing today,” she sings with tangible pleasure. “You interrupt, you yell in my face, but you finally hear me say that I’ll walk, I’m walking away.” After years spent catching her breath as the bar door swings open, it appears that Katie Crutchfield has walked in on herself. She’s not waiting for anyone’s permission to be heard now.

Release: 14th July 2017, Merge Records


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    1. Waxahatchee makes her voice heard on Out in the Storm – Live List - 18/07/2017

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