The highly-anticipated follow-up to 2015’s Ivy Tripp, Waxahatchee’s Out in the Storm is Katie Crutchfield’s most emotional and personal and album to date. Her fourth album is distinct in its sonic aesthetic, marked by heavy guitars and pounding, tinny drums. It’s a noticeable departure from the airier, synth-based Ivy Tripp, but the new record maintains the characteristic Waxahatchee sound first heard on 2011’s American Weekend and honed on 2013’s Cerulean Salt. When synths are used (“Recite Remorse”), they convey a reserved distance—ethereal and drawing attention to the track’s looming sense of isolation.
The record is based on the end of Crutchfield’s toxic relationship, exploring themes ranging from self-doubt, grief, and broken spirits. Her signature honest, unpretentious vocals shine through on each track, conveying her struggle with each note she sings. Opening track “Never Been Wrong” establishes the record’s tone, establishing a simmering anger in “8 Ball” and coming to a boil on “Sparks Fly.” However, that anger is transformed into hope and a beautiful acceptance of her current self. Though the record is her most lyrically straightforward, Crutchfield’s skill as a songwriter lies in the elasticity and ambiguity of her writing, resulting in a cathartic work that can be applied to anyone who has experienced a bad relationship. Out in the Storm isn’t depressing, despite its subject matter. There are sparkling moments of hope and healing, illustrated in tracks like “Fade” and “Silver.”
Though the title may convey a sense of anxiety, a few spins of the album will reveal that Out in the Storm is a bold declaration of facing the unknown with a brave face. A MINUS