Katie Crutchfield named her musical project after the Waxahatchee Creek in Alabama where she grew up. Her music to date has been much like the river – at times shallow, but with deep menacing holes. That has changed on her fifth album Saint Cloud as Crutchfield has found a softness and calmness in her personal life, which is reflected in this batch of songs.
In effect, Saint Cloud started being made when Crutchfield was in Barcelona playing Primavera Festival. She woke up one day and decided that the demons of alcohol and dependence were no longer something that she could tolerate in her life, and holed herself up in a hotel room to begin her sobriety and her writing of the new record.
When Crutchfield previously wrote of her inner struggles, it was reflected in anxiety and turmoil, but on Saint Cloud the internal battle is more hopeful and a reflection on the newfound health and calmness that pervades her life. Opening song Oxbow not only captures this lyrically, but sonically it is a more fleshed out and tranquil tune than you would expect from Waxahatchee. There are big cymbal crashes, a prominence of keyboards and Crutchfield’s double-tracked vocals show off the impurities in her voice, but also the little bit of magic that she has long delivered in her rustic tone.
Can’t Do Much is the type of indie rock love song that’s Waxahatchee’s bread and butter. Sure it is loaded with a lot more twang that usual, and has the deep tones of Bill Lennox on backing vocals, but it is a dead set earworm that will see you dancing around the kitchen before you know it.
Crutchfield enlisted Bonny Doon as her backing band for the album. The Detroit based rock band are the perfect foil for this set of tunes, and add depth and warmth that hasn’t been seen on previous Waxahatchee records. They know when to take a back seat to Crutchfield’s vocals like they do on Lilacs, yet are able to bring her along for the ride on the more rollicking tracks like Hell.
Katie Crutchfield has managed to do what few artists have mastered before her. She has made a record of about recovering from addiction and codependency that is superior to her previous output. Saint Cloud doesn’t preach and it isn’t the least bit trite or stale. Waxahatchee shave off many of the rough edges on this album without polishing the life out of the tunes.