Waxahatchee
Saint Cloud


4.5
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
March 31st, 2020 | 96 replies


Release Date: 03/27/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Look back at me, embers aglow

I'm in a war with myself
It's got nothing to do with you

It’s initially tempting to write off St. Cloud as an idle stroll through homebred Americana. On the heels of the much more powerful Out in the Storm, these songs sound meek – drained, even – as Katie Crutchfield thematically and stylistically retreats homeward to Alabama. The told but likely ignored and forgotten tale behind St. Cloud is Crutchfield’s battle with alcohol and substance abuse – a world that she delves into during the confessional ‘War’, where she likens addiction to a parasite that runs her body and soul into the ground. She sums it up when she sings, almost defensively, “I'm in a war with myself / It's got nothing to do with you.” Maybe that’s where we need to begin while approaching Waxahatchee’s inward retreat: it’s a healing process – comfort food for a recovering soul – and no, it’s not about you.

On an album imbued with rustic imagery that conjures sun-stained porches and the smell of rain, it’s strange to think that St. Cloud is an album full of suffering. Crutchfield’s vocals slide across acoustic canvasses like honey dripping off a spoon – she has this sweet, sticky presence that beckons all things green, warm, and beautiful. Behind the veil of rural simplicity, however, Katie is reeling. There’s a pained longing while she draws out “I want it all” during the waning refrain of ‘Oxbow’, a reference to Crutchfield’s desperate desire to start anew. She does the same thing on ‘Can’t Do Much’, stretching a very simple message – “sanity, nullified, I want you” across nearly thirty seconds. There’s nothing accidental about this sort of repetition: Katie is making a point of saying more with less, taking potent emotions and quietly tucking them into a plain white envelope for us to open and interpret. She’s as lucid as we’ve ever heard her, stripping down to her emotional core and daring us to make eye contact.

Once the contextual framework of St. Cloud is laid out, the pieces of this album begin to fall into place rapidly. ‘Fire’ is an internal dialogue that sees Crutchfield refuse to let herself move on from past mistakes – “Will you let me believe that I broke through?” – while hoping to one day love herself enough to overcome any obstacle: “If I could love you unconditionally, I could iron out the edges of the darkest sky.” It’s a personal pep talk, but the overtones aren’t happy; for each condition there’s a drawback – be it self-doubt or a refusal to forgive oneself – that keeps her planted in a state of perpetual regret. Even the pattering drums and twangy guitar lines aren’t enough to disguise it, and that’s St. Cloud in a nutshell. On ‘Lilacs’ Katie laments having too much of a good thing, likening her relational dependence to that of the flower: “The lilacs drank the water, and the lilacs die.” Even her silver linings are approached with caution, the tentative footsteps of a soul that thirsts for relief but hurts too deeply to trust a sip from the well. A pertinent self-reflection appears only a few songs later when she laments, “Through vacillating eyes, he wants to have it all…and who am I?” It’s a callback to ‘Oxbow’, where she yearns for a clean slate and now finds herself doubting that she could ever be that for somebody else. That palpable insecurity comes to a head when she sings, “I'll put you through hell” with an aggression that defies St. Cloud’s generally amiable atmosphere.

Throughout all of these self-imposed lashings, Katie does manage to cling to one idea as a constant: we’re never done transforming. She embodies that hope best on ‘Arkadelphia’ as she sings atop wispy, breezy guitars, “If we luck out, free as the air – with an unrest craving to spill everywhere / We'll weigh what's good and get real old – keep driving straight searching for a heart of gold.” She’s waxing poetic about taking chances and living vibrantly – steering into life’s messes while acknowledging that there’s no grand meaning to it all. There’s no prize at the finish line, only the journey. It’s a thought that brings her comfort through all these various trials, and that she reemphasizes with a gorgeous verse on ‘Ruby Falls’: “Real love don't follow a straight line / It breaks your neck, it builds you a delicate shrine.” All of this is why she’s able to sing on the eponymous closer, almost with an audible smirk, “I go when I go / Look back at me, embers aglow” as the album fades into a blur of warm reverb. Katie Crutchfield invites us to embrace it all – the adventures, the fuck ups, the heartache – because after all, our embers will only glow as brightly as our fires once burned.



s
Recent reviews by this author
Taylor Swift ReputationFather John Misty Pure Comedy
Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell!Motion City Soundtrack Go
Xibalba Años En InfiernoReckless Kelly American Jackpot / American Girls
user ratings (91)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
March 31st 2020


34536 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You've underestimated this. It's okay, I did too.

Digging: Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 4

dustandnations
March 31st 2020


255 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm gonna join you on that 4.5 train, I absolutely love this.



One thing this record does is make me really look forward to going outside again, haha. But I also like that your review didn't dwell on current events at all. This is a beautiful record and deserves more than to be described as some kind of coronavirus-chil-out tape, as I've seen a little elsewhere online...

Cormano
March 31st 2020


1958 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

never thought I see the day Katie Crutchfield's songs would bring me such warm and joyous feelings, driving down towards a sunset with these record on was blissful



great read

Cormano
March 31st 2020


1958 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

was afraid her lyrics would suffer from being clear headed but this thing is full of killer lines

Pangea
March 31st 2020


4084 Comments


Nice review. I'm curious. I liked what i heard from her earlier but she hasn't wowed me yet

Digging: Woods - Strange To Explain

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
March 31st 2020


9616 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Yep, this is a hell of a grower



Closer is just stunning, maybe her best song

Digging: Jeff Rosenstock - NO DREAM

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
March 31st 2020


18893 Comments


was gonna say, i didn't think you liked this slex

Atari
Staff Reviewer
March 31st 2020


25729 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

niice Sowing



yeah, I've been considering bumping my score as well

Digging: Jeff Rosenstock - NO DREAM

Cormano
March 31st 2020


1958 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Closer is just stunning, maybe her best song"



up there for sure, though I think Takes So Much from her overlooked last EP is better, that and Bathtub from the debut, which is still perfect after all these years

Lucman
April 1st 2020


4244 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It appears I have underestimated this one! Definitely going to have to listen again now.

Cormano
April 1st 2020


1958 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

War is such a bop goddamn

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
April 1st 2020


19767 Comments


Well well well a 4 freaking.5? I mean her last output was the meh of mehs, but I gotta check this.

Digging: The Move - Shazam

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
April 1st 2020


9616 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Cormano Bathtub is definitely one of my favorites but I think her other best song is You're Damaged

Cormano
April 1st 2020


1958 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

that is indeed a great pick

Lucman
April 1st 2020


4244 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Second listen is already moving me more than the first. I also made the mistake of listening to this right after her previous one.

Well fresh ears really do wonders. This is lovely through and through.

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 1st 2020


34536 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The general aesthetic is what hooked me in the beginning. The lyrics are what won me over. This recalls Frances Quinlan and even a little Dylan for me.

Lucman
April 1st 2020


4244 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yep same. I saw that album cover and knew I was going to love it. I enjoyed it but, like yourself, it didn't click until listen two-three. It's riiiight up my alley stylistically.

JesperL
April 1st 2020


704 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

well damn, did i underestimate this?? guess i'll have to revisit but i listened through twice and it was pleasant, but i haven't felt the need to come back yet and very much preferred out in the storm

Digging: Mumrunner - Valeriana

AxeToFall93
April 1st 2020


164 Comments


First spin of this wasn't really rewarding, but I keep trying, cause the right people seem to like that.

theBoneyKing
April 1st 2020


18852 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Listened to her before but she never did much for me...here goes



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy