On her fourth record as Waxahatchee, Katie Crutchfield has created her most sophisticated work yet. A scathing but stunning takedown of a skeevy ex, and an emergence as a stronger, more independent human being, Out in the Storm will hit close to home for anyone who’s ever been through a breakup and come out the other side. Sonically, Crutchfield draws equally on 1990s grunge rock and melodic, shimmering pop, like a younger generation’s Shirley Manson.
Out in the Storm shows Crutchfield’s savvy as a songwriter, too. Detailed and intimate accounts of being screwed over, finding her purpose, starting over, and feeling completely untethered populate the lyrics on Out in the Storm. But as dark as it gets, you’ll want to keep listening. “No Question” is a brutal confrontation of a toxic, cyclical relationship, and “Never Been Wrong” is a painful realization of being stuck in a pathetic situation. Both are also addictive and catchy as hell. These are hard songs to listen to, even if we can relate to what she’s going through in them. When she strives for a sense of independence on “8 Ball,” you want nothing more than for her to get it.
Crutchfield’s vocal harmonies have more clarity on this record, too. Her voice, both as a writer and as a singer, has sharpened, and it shows on songs like “A Little More” and “Recite Remorse.” The latter is one of the album’s most powerful songs, about loneliness and looking back in regret on an unhealthy attachment to someone unworthy. It is heartbreaking, but also feels so personal and autobiographical that it’s like being inside her brain. Similarly, the soaring beauty “Sparks Fly” is a glimpse into her fearful and often insecure mind, even as it finds her coming into her own.
“I’d never be a girl you’d like or trust or you’d respect/And when I think about it/ I want to punch the wall/I remember everything/I wonder if I’ll always feel small,” she sings on “Brass Beam.” “I got lost in your rendition of reality.” It is a gut-punch of an admission wrapped in a smooth, pop rock gem. And that is Out in the Storm through and through.