Everything is softer and more beautiful
Katie Crutchfield’s persona seems part place, part musician. Also known as Waxahatchee, she named herself after the creek behind her childhood home in Birmingham, Alabama. Fast forward a decade and her music feels, more than anything else, like the soundtrack to her roots, a picture of the place she will forever call home. It’s hard to put into words – it’s just something you sense in the music – sentimental melody, lyrics of longing and love, nostalgic movie scenes, and listening to her latest, Saint Cloud, is like finding home once more.
It seems funny to think than any of us need to find home right now, considering we’re mostly all stuck up inside of it for at least the next three weeks with only a mounting will to escape. In fact, maybe finding home is the last thing on our minds, but Waxahatchee’s home isn’t physical. For her home is a feeling, the feeling you get when you look through old photo books, it’s two homes, it’s one thousand homes, and to condense that into an eleven-track album with such clarity feels like the biggest success here.
“Oxbow” opens the record with Waxahatchee’s standpoint vocals and her folk-country musings, closing with the tender intricacies of synth-like guitars running through each other the way water moves at its surface, with ripples and constellations. The tracks are all scenic in this way, they’re easy to see, and maybe that’s what makes them so likeable.
“Can’t Do Much” is the most single-going track off the record, with a sweet chorus hook and ‘sitting on the back of dad’s pick-up truck with the wind in your hair’ riffs. It’s descriptive, yes, but that’s exactly what the music conjures up inside of you, and to ignore these glimpses would be to ignore Waxahatchee herself. We’re seeing what she wants us to see.
Crutchfield’s newfound sobriety is another part of the sound that’s running through the creeks of Saint Cloud, and maybe it’s the reason she was able to find a home so clearly this time around. Speaking in an interview for The Guardian she says, “If you’re getting sober you’re facing all of this stuff that has been shoved deep down and covered in booze for years,” and it’s true. She’s bare and vulnerable on Saint Cloud, in a way that she has never really been before. The music is stripped of her heavier guitar tendencies, they strum their way through easily if not predictably, the drums are more tender too, and everything is softer and more beautiful.
Saint Cloud revels in this comfort of sound and Waxahatchee molds it with the grace of her voice and the quiet of her guitars into a picture soundtrack, culminating in the final three tracks. Each one becomes more fragile until it’s basically breaking into memory on album closer “Saint Cloud” – “when you get back home to Saint Cloud/ watch the new world”. Waxahatchee sings her words with resounding truth, dotting her way into these places, old and new, with the warmth of her music; “embers a glow/ when I go”. What a way to end her journey back home.