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The Wile of Waxahatchee


The Wile of Waxahatchee

It must be tough to be Katie Crutchfield. In the first place, you’ve got to live up to your reputation as Waxahatchee, a rep that’s as sullenly cool as the creek from which she gets the name. The name’s even etymologically cool, since it may be derived from a couple Muscogee words and thereby leaves echoes of Merle.

Not that there’s anything haggard about Waxahatchee’s Tigers Blood. Her sixth full-length album – and first for Anti- – this latest slab has proven to be a critic’s fresh-faced darling even before it was officially released.

Much of that had to do with the pre-release singles – “365”, “Bored” and especially “Right Back to It.” Why the emphasis on the latter? Well, because it’s where the teaming with Wednesday’s MJ Lenderman seems to bear the most fruit. That said, Lenderman’s on the entire LP, so his fruitfulness is surely – purely – a matter of taste.

The point is Tigers Blood is an exceptional record, regardless of what you’re listening for. All you’ve gotta do is open your ears and hear.

Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud

It’s been four years almost to the day since Saint Cloud showered the world with a roar quite unlike the four slabs that preceded it. Mostly because it seemed to be somehow perfectly congruous. NPR, Rolling Stone, Paste, Pitchfork and a scrum of impressive others all named it one of the Top 50 Albums of the Year (Paste and Pitchfork making it #2 on their respective lists.

In the album-opening “Oxbow” she drops the “it” and ends up confessing to wanting all, not in a demanding Karen way, mind you (Zeus-forbid!), but with cavalier nonchalance. As if neither here nor there was just what she was aiming for.

She also quit drinking, in an act of healing that became the record’s conceptual lodestar; addiction and codependency, she says, are the twin demons that necessitated this record.

Will Gottsegen at Billboard writes “The result is a collection of warm, sunlit vignettes with a palpable darkness in the lyrics; pain is always lurking, threatening to overwhelm, but in the sonics, it’s clear it never quite does.”

As clever as the critics are when addressing Waxahatchee (and they do seem to make an art of trying to out-clever each other), I’m more interested in what Waxahatchee says about her music. Take, for instance, the way she summed up the recording of Saint Cloud:

“I’m a really big advocate and believer in therapy, and I’ve done a lot of that,” she told Gottsegen. “And, without blowing anonymity, 12 Steps stuff has been super super important, and I think has been huge on this album. I think there’s a lot of darkness, and there has to be a lot of darkness because that’s how we heal, and that’s how we move on, is by telling our stories. And so it’s a lot of my stories. My darkest stories, really, in a lot of moments on the album. But it is hopeful, because that is my attitude right now.”

And with that, we can rest.

Waxahatchee: Tigers Blood

Kate Solomon, writing in The Guardian, calls Tigers Blood a collection of “songs written by someone who has lived a life and found it all to be simultaneously complex and straightforward. There’s no narrative through-line: the album is a series of moments and feelings that reflect on the great tangle that is being alive.”

Crutchfield, in turn, parses it like this:

“I needed to just sit with myself, as a flawed person that’s in pain, before I could focus on making an album again,” she told Billboard.

Now though, she seems to have found the secret. And it’s as simple as a European snack.

“With [producer] Brad [Cook], my records are like a great slice of homemade bread with a fresh slice of tomato, a little olive oil, salt and pepper,” Crutchfield told Billboard’s Eric Renner Brown. “The ingredients are so simple. Why overthink it?”

It stands to damn good reason why Waxahatchee’s struck by simplicity. Her latest happens to come from a bout of full-on sobriety. A bout which she began during the recording of 2020’s breakout Saint Cloud and has stuck with ever since.

Hence, she’s still solidly spot-on vis-a-vis sobriety. Simple and to the point.

“With Saint Cloud I really wanted to prove that you don’t have to be so tortured to make interesting art,” she told Elle Hunt at The Guardian during the last album’s interview cycle.

With Tigers Blood she’s proven it tenfold.

Healing Properties thanks Katie Crutchield for the wile that is Waxahatchee, as well as for shooting down the myth of the tortured artist. It’s always great to see a cliche erased, no matter which side of the darkness it falls under.
Image: Tigers Blood Album Art by Molly Matalon Courtesy Anti-

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