Album Reviews

Waxahatchee – Tigers Blood

(ANTI-) UK release date: 22 March 2024

Katie Crutchfield’s reflective, wistful follow-up to 2020’s Saint Cloud is imbued with a sense of warm familiarity

Waxahatchee - Tigers Blood It’s been fascinating to watch the musical evolution of Alabama-born Katie Crutchfield, aka Waxahatchee, over the last 15 years or so. The scratchy lo-fi indie pop of her early days has slowly grown into full-on polished Americana, with the added edge that Crutchfield brings to all of her albums never far from the surface.

Tigers Blood takes the baton thrown down by 2020’s Saint Cloud and runs with it. Crutchfield’s work with Jess Williamson in the alt-country duo Plains is also a big reference point on Tigers Blood. It’s a reflective, wistful record, and could well be the best album of Crutchfield’s career so far.

The country stylings that have always been a part of the Waxahatchee sound are a bit more pronounced this time around, and the instrumentation on each track is beautiful, with both banjo and slide guitar being deployed expertly. Opening track 3 Sisters sounds almost like a statement of intent: a slowburning epic that, when her band kick in after two minutes, swells into life majestically. The lyrics too give some hint at Crutchfield’s focus: “If you’re not living, then you’re dying, just a raw nerve satisfying some futile bottom line.”

That focus is no doubt due to Crutchfield’s sobriety, a journey which she makes reference to at several points on the album. 365, one of Tigers Blood’s most starkly beautiful moments, tackles co-dependent relationships in a stripped-down manner, with Crutchfield, only accompanied by an acoustic guitar, sings “I catch your same disease, bow like a weeping willow, buckling at the knees”.

Bored is a pretty perfect three minute alt-pop song, its carefree chorus belying its subject matter of a toxic friendship coming to a close. There’s a real snarl in the way Crutchfield sings lines like “my spine’s a rotted two-by-four, barely hanging on, my benevolence just hits the floor”. At the opposite end of the scale is the gorgeously wallow of Right Back To It, a duet with Wednesday guitarist MJ Lenderman, an ode to long-term love with a gently plucked banjo tugging at the heartstrings.

It’s those wistful, romantically bittersweet moments that really raise up Tigers Blood – Lone Star Lake is one of the best songs Crutchfield’s ever written, a gently alt-country unpacking of a relationship that’s not really working out (“I’ll stand arm in arm with anyone who’s able to let me be the object of their misery”) – the way Crutchfield drawls “what do you say, we’ll sleep all day, then drive down to the Lone Star Lake” makes it sound like the most appealing thing in the world.

There’s a sense of warm familiarity throughout Tigers Blood, helped in no small part by long-term producer Brad Cook, who creates a warm, rich sound for Crutchfield’s songs to shine. She still knows how to rock – one listen to the intense jam of Ice Cold will convince you of that – but this is the sound of a more mature Crutchfield. By the time the unexpected choral backing vocals appear on the closing, uplifting title track, you’ll want to go right back to the start and take it all in again. Tiger Blood is the sound of an artist improving on her already high standards.

buy Waxahatchee MP3s or CDs
Spotify Waxahatchee on Spotify

More on Waxahatchee
Waxahatchee – Tigers Blood
Waxahatchee – Saint Cloud
Waxahatchee @ Oval Space, London
Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp
Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt