On her fifth album as Waxahatchee, Katie Crutchfield tackles settling down and her sobriety in a sincere way on the wonderful ‘Saint Cloud’.

One thing that makes great songwriters truly stand out is their ability to evolve and mature with time. Changing direction in unexpected ways can be tough, but sincere changes can further solidify an artist’s connection with listeners. The Katie Crutchfield who wrote Saint Cloud is, in many ways, a very different from the person who wrote the previous Waxahatchee records. Settling down and sobering up, Crutchfield has created her most sincere work yet.

I want it all,” she repeats at the end of the opening track, “Oxbow”. It’s her declaration to change her life and pursue what is important to her. Saint Cloud has an intentional country core and features the understated power of Crutchfield’s voice, both literally and lyrically. Her ability to cultivate vivid imagery is immense: from the jangly, upbeat “Can’t Do Much” to the sparse yet vivid “Fire” within the first three tracks, Waxahatchee sets the bar high.

That country core weaves through the entire record, from the brushed drums and strummed guitar on “The Eye” or pretty much everything about “Witches”. The infectious guitar work on “War” creates the frame for Crutchfield’s honest appeal to anyone listening, as she repeats: “I’m at war with myself / It’s got nothing to do with you.” Meanwhile, “Hell” is Crutchfield at her best: confessional, a little angry, though that is turned internally:

“And I hover above like a deity
But you don’t worship me
You don’t worship me
Yeah you struck the illusion, you did it well
I put you through hell”

The tail end of the record contains some of its most powerful moments. “Arkadelphia” is a perfect example of its immersive imagery. The penultimate track “Ruby Falls” is as stunning as it is heart-wrenching. The album closes with “St. Cloud”, and for the most part it’s just Crutchfield and her guitar. It’s a delicate moment to close an album full of them.

From her beginnings as a lo-fi singer-songwriter to her loud exclamations on 2017’s Out in the Storm, Waxahatchee changes direction yet again on Saint Cloud. In doing so, Crutchfield has created yet another relatable and confident record.

Saint Cloud is out now on Merge Records. Pick it up it here.

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