Waxahatchee doesn’t deliver nepenthes for the broken-hearted. Instead, Katie Crutchfield dwells on the bitter revelations of love lost, on crippling devastation, and the cycle that intertwines pleasure with pain.
But these songs are more Stay Home Club than “woe is me,” with hard-hitting riffs and clever celebrations of bitter resolve. Pitchfork says Crutchfield’s tunes “play like fiery exorcisms”—which is precisely what a heartbreak is, and what happens to be the impetus that carries us through the fire of it all on Waxahatchee’s fourth album and second for Merge, last year’s Out in the Storm. From the first heavy chord of the unrepentant pity party “Never Been Wrong,” where Crutchfield belts “Everyone will hear me complain/Everyone will pity my pain,” to the second track on the album, “8 Ball,” she celebrates the breakdown: “I’ll drink too much, I’ll cause a big scene. … I don’t care who sees.”
Crutchfield transforms the demons of her own experience into the stuff of everybody’s heartache through unapologetic, sardonic explorations of unfortunate decisions and questionable self-care. The moods and modes pivot violently, from bitter to regretful to resigned. Crutchfield finishes shedding her skin in the finale: “You finally hear me say that I’ll walk, I’m walking away. I watched myself fade and fade.”
The name Waxahatchee is a nod to Crutchfield’s home state of Alabama, where she formed her first project, The Ackleys, at age 15 with her twin sister, Allison. (Allison performs at this year’s Hopscotch with Swearin’.) She recorded her first Waxahatchee album, American Weekend, in her childhood bedroom in Birmingham. The New York Times called it one of 2012’s essential albums. Since then, though, and especially on Out in the Storm, Crutchfield has lifted those lo-fi emotions to a new level of polish and power, leading to one of this decade’s most convincing and exquisite rock bands.