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Whether playing with sister Allison in the now-defunct P.S. Eliot or recording on her own as Waxahatchee, Katie Crutchfield has specialized in full disclosure, sharing scalding tales of a tormented soul in a piercing rasp of a voice. Accompanied by news of her recent embrace of sobriety, the fifth Waxahatchee album finds Crutchfield continuing in the vein of the fine 2018 EP Great Thunder, which traded the scruffy, roaring garage-punk of earlier efforts for gentler, folk- and country-influenced settings without any loss of intensity. Shaped by oblique love songs that offer questions rather than reassurance, the electrifying St. Cloud evokes both devastating isolation and desperate surrender. On the shimmering “War” Crutchfield explains, “I’m in a war with myself/It’s got nothing to do with you.” Harrowing and vital, St. Cloud will jolt the most jaded sensibilities.
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