Everybody has something they gravitate towards when a relationship implodes. Whether such an end is for better or worse, it probably features boxset bingeing, acting like Bridget Jones or those dependable bearded genius’ Ben and Jerry. Of course, the breakup album plays a big part in all this; after all, if music be the food of love then the breakup album is the aforementioned tub of ice cream or tray of lasagne as it were. They’re emotional, usually a little bit rough around the edges, and that’s where Out in the Storm is different. The ten tracks here aren’t rambling or under-developed, instead it’s a strangely detached record, almost objective as Katie picks through the wreckage left behind after this particular Storm.
Album opener Never Been Wrong sets the tone immediately with Breeders-esque guitars that are rich and distorted while a driving bassline steers to a cathartic chorus where Katie sings “Everyone will hear me complain / Everyone will pity my pain”. It’s a firebrand that makes quite the impact, contrasting nicely with next track 8 Ball, where pretty acoustic guitar chords and serpentine guitar lines swirl quite wonderfully. Lead single Silver follows and I want to take a moment to say how fantastic the drums sound not just here but on the whole album in fact. Co-Producer John Agnello has worked similar magic on Dinosaur Jr’s recent efforts, the snare has a certain crack to it and the grooves feel remarkably organic, as though enveloped in all the other instrumental parts rather than on a separate plane simply keeping time. Lyrically this is another track seemingly based in the midst of Katie’s relationship but the cracks show in subtle ways, “When your kiss on my lips starts to feel unfamiliar…” and it paints of picture of just how unhealthy a pairing can be in the right, or rather the wrong, circumstances.
Recite Remorse is the subdued centrepiece of the album. Swells of shimmering guitar notes ebb and flow over two cycling organ chords while Katie once again reminisces the failings of her partner and to an extent herself within their relationship. The shoegaze tinged Sparks Fly follows and, much like the variety of influences Katie’s music shows off on previous records, is well executed without feeling uninspired. Ringing acoustic chords and distant guitar noise provide the backdrop for Katie and her sister Alison’s vocals on the chorus. Sixth track Brass Beam is perhaps the only misstep on the record, the instrumental feels a bit light on energy or purpose but follow up Hear You is pleasingly another sonic change up with a distorted sub-bass line on the intro that punctuates the anthemic nature of the chorus as well. A Little More recalls tracks from American Weekend (Crutchfield’s debut in 2013) with her voice raw in the mix paired with just delicate acoustic guitar strums and softly plucked bass. The repeated closing lines of “I live a little more, I die a little more” bring the emotions to the surface more than ever and there’s a real sense this is a subject it’s still painful to bring up and write about. This is one of Katie’s strongest performances.
Penultimate track No Question returns to the straightforward rock of the two singles earlier in the album. Soaring guitars on the hooks and in the ever-slowing outro makes for a blissful conclusion to the song. All that remains is the closer Fade that deals, appropriately, with the end of the same relationship that dominates Out in the Storm. It’s another acoustically led ballad that documents Katie “walkin’ away” from this chapter in her life. Her analysis of herself and her actions in the track bring to mind once again the eerie objectiveness of the record. The sense of distance in some of the lyrics and even the instrumentation on several moments here elevate Out in the Storm above a lot of the lovesick musings common to the indie/singer songwriter mould, and should undoubtedly be praised.
I close then, able to comfortably recommend Waxahatchee’s latest offering not just to any previous admirer of Crutchfield (and her band’s) work but to anyone looking for a brief, tempestuous, painfully honest journey through a bitter relationship and its aftermath. Rest assured Katie has brewed quite a maelstrom with this album, destructive in both its music and lyrical quality. Thrillingly good.