John Darnielle made a name for himself recording simple songs into a boombox, mostly by himself, some people say that the Mountain Goats lost their touch once Darnielle brought in the rest of the band and began recording more polished albums. Any good Mountain Goats fan knows that the band has only improved as they’ve gotten older, then why did I apply the former philosophy to Waxahatchee? Katie Crutchfield’s debut album American Weekend was such a masterpiece that I ignored the following two albums, until Out In The Storm, which captures the lyrical essence of Waxahatchee, with wider, warmer production.
What makes Out In The Storm so great is that Crutchfield is a master of merging folk’s storytelling and punk’s posture into the depth and style of Fleetwood Mac-style classic rock. Album opener, “Never Been Wrong,” is the perfect mission statement. Crutchfield sings with the same passion as Lindsey Buckingham on “Go Your Own Way,” as she belts
Am I Happy or Manic?
Does it make you feel good
to just blend in with the wall?
As self-reflective as she is here, the song ends with the fury of Rumours with:
You walk around like
it’s your god-given right,
and you love being right.
You’ve never been wrong.
It’s snarky and sarcastic, and Crutchfield’s vocals just match the instrumentation so perfectly. What also makes Storm work so well is Crutchfield’s ability to capture the same lonely feeling as she had on her debut. “8-Ball” and “Recite Remorse” do an excellent job of capturing this feeling, while also narrating her exit from a relationship. The American Weekend essence continues onto “Sparks Fly,” a slightly more upbeat number, where acoustic guitar is featured in the production, resembling the first album’s sound, as Crutchfield sings, “Or I’ll go back South/see myself clearly for the first time.”
The second half of the album is a much more upbeat tick, seeing Crutchfield exploring her old relationship and the reasons she left:
I put it out like a cigarette
I’d never be a girl
you’d like or trust or you’d respect
These are rousing-powerhouse tunes, which could incite moshing with the right crowd. Crutchfield is often like Joan Jett in “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” where she’s pissed off about the habits of her old fling. “No Question” is the perfect example. A rhythm-churning romp, reminiscent of AC/DC, where Crutchfield sings about her old interest sleeping with her friends, playing the victim, and embarrassing her. She’s not fucking around, even as the song slows to the refrain of “It sets you free.”
Crutchfield does take time to quietly look back on the back-half of the album too. “A Little More” shows some sparks of regret as are often the case at the end of anything. The final song is a simple, little song. It seems fond of the time spent together at times, but towards the end Crutchfield declares:
I always knew it was wrong.
I poured everything out.
It never would be enough.
I kissed you good-bye,
and hid for the rest of your life.
As it fades out, it shows what, in my opinion, Waxahatchee represents: sometimes, you’re going to be alone, and that’s fine. More important than that, sometimes you’re going to be alone, and that’s a good thing.