Katie Crutchfield’s latest entry into the pantheon of modern indie rock, with her band Waxahatchee, is making a bit of a splash and for good reason. Saint Cloud is both more restrained and refined than 2017’s Out in the Storm. For full disclosure I feel that you, the reader, should know that Ms. Crutchfield and I attended the same high school but a year apart. It would be disingenuous for me to withhold that information from the masses, and with that I feel a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.
Now back to the review. “Oxbow” is an excellent thesis statement for the album. It’s short and well written, with a blending of sounds from Americana and hip-hop. “Can’t Do Much” is a driving song if there ever was one; hints of Wilco and Guided by Voices. “Fire” is rhythmical and a favorite of actress Busy Philipps, according to her Instagram. Ok, another disclaimer: One time I saw Busy Philipps with Walton Goggins in Leon’s Oyster Shack in Charleston, SC while they were in the middle of filming the second season of HBO’s Vice Principals. I wouldn’t feel right if I left that information out so that you, the reader, can have a more accurate picture of the different prejudices I am arriving with as I write this piece.
“Lilacs, The Eye, Hell, and Witches” would be a completely perfect EP on their own but they work equally as well as a tentpole for Saint Cloud, a lot of big energy and excellent alt-country guitar and piano work. “War” has the rolling drums and guitar of Josh Ritter at his most exuberant on some of his post “Historical Conquests” work. Sorry to be a bother one more time, but I just can’t mislead you, the ever-loyal reader. I have seen Josh Ritter live more than almost any other act. In fact one time my cousin’s band, Lowland Hum, went on tour with him, so I have interacted with him on a personal level multiple times. I want, no, I need you to know that I will always disclose my conflicts of interest.
“Arkadelphia” reminds me of the stripped-down honesty of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska with its sparse instrumentation and heavy use of metaphor and memory. Actually, hold on, I have to come clean. I have driven on Arkadelphia Road before on multiple occasions, some of those probably listening to The Boss. One time I had to pee so bad I pulled over and peed on the side of said road. Just FYI.
Honestly I think my opinion is too skewed to give you an objective review, but if you want an honest subjective view, this album is incredibly versatile and if you are reading this while we are still in the thick of the COVID-19 crisis, you know how important that is. I have worked out to this record. I have cut grass to this record. I am penning this review to this record. One of the best pieces of music to come out in 2020. In all seriousness, the pairing of two streets in back to back songs that both mean so much to me as a Birmingham native to NYC transplant is incredibly meaningful in a way that might be too personal to express. But maybe the most universal music is the stuff that hits you personally.