Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield has a musical style that seems to be an exploration of change as she has touched across the sounds of indie, folk and rock through her past four full-length releases. Her ability to claim a distinct musical voice while experimenting with different sounds has shown itself in her most recent release, Great Thunder. The EP stands as a separation from her rock heavy 2017 record, Out in the Storm, but remains as a stark representation of herself by revisiting both her past music writing experience and her country roots.
Great Thunder is a recollection and reshaping of six songs Crutchfield wrote with the now non-existent recording group that wore the same title as this recent EP. The rare and hard-to-find original collaborative tracks gave Crutchfield inspiration to rework their skeletons and bring them back with a clearer sound and a gripping emotional pull.
The EP is vulnerable in every sense of the word. Crutchfield’s strong, but breathy vocals stand alone with only soft piano instrumentals resting behind her, exposing every whine, cry and moment of breathlessness. This simple companionship creates a parallel between the production of sound in the EP and the emotions it evokes: loneliness and pain. These feelings become vocalized within the EP’s lyrical content and are introduced with the beginning track “Singer’s No Star” as Crutchfield cries “We get comfortable with our detachment to our oldest friends / And you got me here where I’m left alone / I’m not the only thing you ever left.” Not only do these lines surface an air of loneliness, they introduce a haunting remembrance for a time that was that only becomes stronger as the EP moves along.
This turmoil becomes exaggerated through each song as Crutchfield’s beautifully melodic vocals slip away into soft whispers that feel almost unfinished, leaving listeners with high pitched sighs full of yearning. This flowing change in her voice instills a feeling close to regret. A painful emptiness that settles at the bottom of your chest when you remember something you want to forget, like an ex-lover’s favorite song or the color of their bedsheets.
But, as soon as Crutchfield’s whispers fade out into nothing, her vocals come back with an intensity that sends shivers up your spine, flooding your eyes with the color blue, creating a feeling of abandonment. She sings of this abandonment in the song “You Left Me With an Ocean,” with a heavy voice that rings with melancholy.
And even though Crutchfield’s voice is weighed down by this loneliness, as the EP nears the end there is a sign of submission, a desire to return and try again after all of the hurt. In the final song, “Take So Much,” Crutchfield begs this person she has been addressing through the entire EP to come back to find support in her: “Take it out / Take it out / Take it on me baby,” she sings, leaving these isolating, vulnerable emotions to linger without resolution. After this EP draws out intense feelings of desolation and despair, Crutchfield leaves us without closure, like most of our haunting memories do. Once the music stops, there are only her haunting sweet voice, a complacent sadness and you.