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CD of The Week

Week of 3/25/24

    Waxahatchee - Tigers Blood (Anti-)

    Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield has reached her peak transformative state with much dedication and hard work on her new album Tigers Blood. The one-time Philadelphian and current resident of Overland Park, KS has traveled the well-worn line from rebellious punk (P.S. Eliot with twin sister Allison) to lo-fi bedroom (American Weekend & Cerulean Salt) to indie folk (Ivy Tripp & Out in the Storm) to alt-country (Saint Cloud). Tigers Blood expands upon the country side of that most recent style but gives the occasional spotlight to flickers of her past. While Saint Cloud was written during her embarkment into a sober state of mind, Tigers Blood finds Crutchfield staying strong and clean, flipping through her past like a scrapbook showing all the good and bad times in equal light. Even “365,” originally written for Wynonna Judd, became so personal to Crutchfield, that she kept the near-acapella country song about negative codependence for this record.

    But it almost wasn’t that way. Crutchfield and returning producer Brad Cook (Saint Cloud) almost turned this set of songs into a pop record, thinking they might capitalize on the recent audience growth and cultivate it further with a slight genre shift. But in the end, they stayed true with what worked and invited similarly inclined guitarist MJ Lenderman of Wednesday to add duet vocals and guitar to the first real love song Crutchfield has ever written, lead single “Right Back to It.” He ended up sticking around to contribute guitar and backing vocals for the rest of the record, too.

    The intro “3 Sisters” is a light acoustic singer-songwriter track that grows into a mid-tempo memory with a Macy Gray melody. It reflects on a toxic relationship with a person whose motto was written into the lyrics “If you’re not living, you’re dying.” Crutchfield’s cherubic country lilt carries more emotion and meaning than the words. “Evil Spawn’s” alt-country tone invites Lenderman back to vocally reminisce with Crutchfield about the good old days that may not have been all that good. And both “Burns Out at Midnight” and “The Wolves” are slow tempo songs meant to showcase her vocals. They admit that hard work is necessary to do what is right in both life and a career with lyrics like “Might be good on my own, but I ain’t running away” on “…Midnight” and “If I throw myself to the wolves / I did it all for the glory” on the latter track.

    But there are genre nods to her sonic past in the two more rock-oriented-but-doomed songs “Bored” and “Crowbar.” “Bored” starts off with a blast of guitar alongside Crutchfield’s focused, methodical, yet hushed vocals. They lead to an energetic chorus falling somewhere between Alanis Morrisette and Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.” In the album’s press release, Crutchfield recants, “I wrote “Bored” in the wake of a friendship that ended badly…I hope you listen to it before you go quit your job, [or] dump some jerk you’re dating…I would love to be your friend in that moment.” And the radio-friendly, upbeat jangly nature of “Crowbar” side steps away from the country mold but sings of a relationship so frustrating that each lyric like “I know you can’t read my mind / I swear I said the same thing a hundred times” drips with resentment.

    All in all, if you were a fan of Saint Cloud, you should find Tigers Blood equally as rewarding. By design, it enhances what works, rather than trying for an unknown. This makes cohesive sense, as it parallels the lyrical content of the record: revisiting and getting comfortable with the past, rather than looking for something new. Speaking of something new, Waxahatchee will end their 2024 globetrotting tour at a brand-new venue for her in Philly for two dates (like a hometown hero). Check them out at The Fillmore on Saturday, September 7th with Tim Heidecker & Gladie or on Sunday, September 8th with Snail Mail & Greg Mendez.
    Review by Shepard Ritzen

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