19. Waxahatchee, Out in the Storm (Merge)
Waxahatchee’s album Cerulean Salt was a big one for me in 2013 and 2014, thanks not only to the songwriting talent of Katie Crutchfield but also to her distinct, slightly raspy, Southern-accented voice. Its lo-fi approach didn’t hinder its appeal to yours truly either, as the aesthetic took me back to the early 1990s when I devoured lo-fi indie rock obsessively. While 2015’s Ivy Tripp was by no means a bad record, it never wriggled into my subconscious the way the previous one did. Out in the Storm, however, feels more like a reassertion of Crutchfield’s staggering talent, and at time an expansion of it. One big difference on this album is that it was recorded with Crutchfield’s touring band, live off the floor, which makes for a much more visceral sounding piece of work. Songs like “Never Been Wrong”, “Silver”, and Hear You” turn the volume up, making the already powerfully personal material feel even more intense. There’s also a world-weariness to the album at times, with Crutchfield singing at one point, “I don’t want to fight / I just want to sing my songs and sleep through the night.” Looking back on one’s past can be cathartic, but you eventually have to move on, and Out in the Storm sees Waxahatchee setting off on its own path, stubbornly looking ahead.