Saint Cloud

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Following the defiant alt-rock of her John Agnello-produced fourth album, Out in the Storm, Katie Crutchfield makes another adjustment to the course of her one-time bedroom project Waxahatchee with the warmer, more contemplative Saint Cloud. Shedding distortion in favor of a more easygoing, country-rock sensibility, the album's backing band is perhaps the best indicator of its sound; joining her throughout are Bonny Doon's Bill Lennox and Bobby Colombo, Bonny Light Horseman's Josh Kaufman, and Elvis Perkins in Dearland's Nick Kinsey. Saint Cloud's cover art underscores the approach with a photo of Crutchfield striking a pose on a pickup truck. Per press surrounding the album, the songs were written after and largely inspired by the songwriter's decision to get sober. A native of Alabama, her relaxed vocal twang is most pronounced on tracks including the slow, lilting "Ruby Falls" and the jauntier "Can't Do Much." Elsewhere, "Lilacs" straddles urgency and relaxed composure with ambling guitar jangle and lyrics about letting go of bad behavior patterns. Hints of Dylan can be detected throughout the album but are more prominent on "Hell" and, to a lesser degree, the chorus of "War," an uptempo entry that assures "I'm in a war with myself/It's got nothing to do with you." While alternating between regretful slower tracks, midtempo drawls, and livelier, foot-tapping fare, the album never moves off dirt roads and adjacent orchards, and proves to be her most carefree-sounding effort to date. That's despite doggedly self-examining lyrics that keep Saint Cloud squarely in the realm of prior releases from an artist who continues to ward off complacency.

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