“I hoped howling out all this truth would be liberating,” insists Waxahatchee founder Katie Crutchfield on the second-to-last track of the indie rock project’s latest LP, Out in the Storm. Crutchfield’s effort to vocalize her emotions surrounding the end of a constricting long-term relationship may not be enough for her own “liberation,” but they are certainly enough to provide deep insight into her harshest truths.
The album is messy on first listen; there isn’t a particularly memorable melody or really striking lyric. After a few repetitions, however, the guitar riffs, intricate percussion and articulate vocals layer to create an intimate look into a past relationship since lost and one very intelligent woman’s attempt to make sense of it all.
Crutchfield doesn’t just tell her feelings she reveals through storytelling worthy of a New York Times bestselling novelist. She begins her account with a precise statement expressing her frustration: “I spend all my time learning how to defeat you at your own game / it’s embarrassing.”
From there she gradually builds out the narrative. On “8 Ball,” she sings of a lover who “wants to name (her) weakness” and “brand (her) losing streak.” Much of the album centers around this unhealthy relationship, detailing the feelings of suppression her significant other imposed on her. However, she doesn’t let herself off clean. On album standout “Recite Remorse,” and perhaps Crutchfield’s most self aware lyrical effort to date, she admits she “always gravitates toward those who are unimpressed,” adding yet another layer to her story.
This seemingly dark tale is not completely devoid of light though, as displayed in a number of confident and rebellious lyrics dispersed throughout the album, including on “Sparks Fly,” which has Crutchfield declaring herself a “live wire, electrified.”
While these moments of defiance are encouraging, the only true moment of ease comes during the final song, “Fade.” It’s a bittersweet finale that details the moment Crutchfield finally walks away and reminisces on how much of herself she let fade throughout the relationship. Despite the losses she’s endured, the tone is hopeful and reassures us that Crutchfield will be OK.
The entire story is accompanied by the excellent songwriting that has graced every Waxahatchee album to date. The tracks feature lyrics, which rarely repeat and often do not rhyme, placed up against clean cut melodies for structure. The words aren’t profoundly poetic, but carry weight due to their unhindered truth. The raw desire and familiarity of the lyrics lend lines that everyone understands but no one thought to say.
A prime example comes on “Brass Beam,” in which Crutchfield begs, “I just want to sing my songs and sleep through the night.” This line is so simple; not a single word exceeds one syllable. Yet the desperation it contains encompasses a Nicholas Sparks movie worth of emotion.
Such passion can be found in every song on Out in the Storm. Katie Crutchfield has once again acutely applied her songwriting bravado to her own emotions, gifting the world with immeasurable honesty that motivates us to step away from what’s holding us back and run out into the storm.