Waxahatchee: St. Cloud
Waxahatchee digs into her Americana side on St. Cloud, singer/guitarist Katie Crutchfield’s first album since getting sober. Where 2017’s Out in the Storm and 2015’s Ivy Tripp were decidedly indie-rock records with loud, fuzzy guitars and booming chorus, St. Cloud leans heavily on clean, bright instruments, highlighting Crutchfield’s voice in new ways. On standout single “Fire,” Crutchfield uses a weathered, almost nervous falsetto to drive home the uncertainty in her lyrics: “If I could love you unconditionally/ I could iron out the edges of the darkest sky/ For some of us, it ain’t enough.” She also toys with the rasp in her voice throughout. “Lilacs” finds Crutchfield speak-singing over a countrified tick-tock drum beat before belting out an anthemic chorus: “If I’m a broken record, write it in the dust, babe/ I’ll fill myself back up like I used to do/ And if my bones are made of delicate sugar/ I won’t end up anywhere good without you.” At the end, she repeats the phrase “and the lilacs drank the water” over and over, modulating her falsetto each time. Some credit for this new direction goes to producer and Bon Iver collaborator Brad Cook and the core band, which includes guitarist Josh Kaufman and members of Bonny Doon. But there’s a clarity to Crutchfield’s singing and writing that’s striking and all her— particularly on “Ruby Falls,” which offers a sobering take on love. “Real love don’t follow a straight line,” she sings over sparse backing. “It breaks your neck; it builds you a delicate shrine.” Crutchfield has said that sobriety put her on a path toward self-reflection, and it resulted in what may be her best album yet.