ALBUM REVIEW: Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

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Merge Records

Released: 27.03.20

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image by Molly Matalon

Ever since she burst into wider public consciousness in 2013 with the second Waxahatchee record Cerulean Salt, Katie Crutchfield has occupied a well-established position as one of our most reliably brilliant artists. Every couple of years, she resurfaces once more with another excellent LP, displaying enviable levels of artistic growth each time. In fact, you suspect she could still be bowling us over with the impact of her songs forty years from now.

Saint Cloud sees Crutchfield laying off the fuzz which has characterised the last couple of records, and as satisfying as it felt to be in the embrace of the storm at the time, it’s pretty lovely to feel a little morning sun on our faces for a bit. From the gentle twinkle of Oxbow to the almost a capella gorgeousness of the title track, the more delicate arrangements give breathing space to her warming burr and an increased focus on the intimacy of her words.

It’s clear from early on that Saint Cloud is a contemplative record, but it never feels like a particularly heavy listen. In fact, it’s surprisingly easy to digest, and that’s largely down to Crutchfield’s deftness with melody. Lilacs, for example, is a relatively sparse arrangement, but it’s also subtly catchy, with a chorus that seems to gradually swell in scale with every listen. Serving up heavy lyrics with a bit of bounce is a fairly well-worn trope by this point, but there can’t be many people as skilled in the art as Crutchfield currently recording. Hell is probably the strongest example of this, a fairly classical Americana number effortlessly supporting the weight of lines about a “flowery demise” and an unworshipped deity.

Having ventured with increasing confidence into the indie rock sphere in the last few years, Saint Cloud is a reminder (as if it were needed) that Katie Crutchfield has not just remained in touch with her roots as an acoustic songwriter, but is entirely in command of them, and as she sings on Can’t Do Much, is “something versatile to fill all your needs”. Much more than that, though, she’s an artist to cherish.

 

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