Coming up with my top five favorite rock albums of my lifetime to jam out to of all time is relatively easy.
In chronological order:
- Nevermind by Nirvana (1991)
- Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Moriessette (1995)
- Bringing Down the Horse by the Wallflowers (1996)
- Bleed American by Jimmy Eat World (2001)
- Hot Fuss by the Killers (2005)
They range from melodic grunge to slow burning ballads to bleeding heart lyrics to electro-infused pop. Combined all of the elements and you’ll usually be able to find my favorite album of the year. This year, I was certain the title was going to Richard Edwards. My own Moby Dick that I’ve interviewed numerous times for Paste Magazine and my own blog. His official debut solo record is amazing. I even wrote a profile about Edwards for my blog after a site totally boned me out of publication. But that’s neither here nor there. It’s an album I’ve listened to countless times this year and I highly recommend it for some lazy Sunday afternoon and random weeknight drives into the desert.
The more I thought about what album stood with me the most, Edwards’ was in a tumbler with three other rockers. All females. Big Thief’s Capacity feels like a smaller, concise sister album to Car Seat Headrest’s debut. Fuzzy, emotional, punchy. I bought that along with Paste Magazine’s best album of the year, Jay Som’s Everybody Works at the same time over the summer. Both have held a lot of meaning for me over the latter half of 2017. Jay Som’s album is as intimate as one can get. Melina Duterte recorded it in her bedroom studio. She wrote perhaps my favorite song of the year (the infectious “The Bus Song”) and produced such sweet lo-fi tones that rise to noise rock levels.
Any of those albums would be worthy of some random white dude’s favorite album of the year blog post. Seriously. Buy them now.
So, that’s a long preamble for Adam John Vitcavage’s actual favorite album, isn’t it?
Katie Crutchfield took everything I loved (except for the electro-pop of the Killers) and put it into Out in the Storm, her fourth album under the name Waxahatchee.
Her rock sensibility is evident from the album opener “Never Been Wrong.” (Did you for four seconds think it was a new Strokes song?) It’s distorted guitars and pop melody really gets the album off to a raucous start. Then Crutchfield pulls the rug from under us and she puts out the softer and much swingier and twangier “8 Ball.” In an interview with Andy Greenwald on the Watch podcast, she revealed that song always needed to be second. She needed listeners to know they needed to expect anything on it.
The album delivers on that ideology. There are a lot of sweaty rock songs, but then there’s the stripped-down “Recite Remorse” that simply proves how majestic her vocals are. She belts out lyrics over long, drawn-out chords with such confidence a lot of singers try to shy away from.
Out in the Storm was born out of a bad break-up. Listen closely to the lyrics and those loud songs are some of the most vulnerable. That’s why the album was catapulted to my favorite. Her album is the type of album you want to have a beer with at a party, but it’s also one where you want to lay curled up in a ball with exploring the emotional dumpster fire your life is. She doesn’t just need ballads to hit us it hurts. She lets us have fun while telling us how her heart was torn out.
In a way, this really reminds me of Bleed American. So many of those songs are just so fun. They’re upbeat regardless of the lyrical content. Then you have dark, brooding moments like “Hear You Me,” “Cautioners,” and “Sundown.” Every good album needs these peaks and valleys. Some hit them better than others. Jim Adkins and Katie Crutchfield are two that definitely know where and when to explore them.
Waxahathee’s songs have always been good, but this is an album where you can tell another level was achieved. In the course of half an hour, listeners will have their hearts set ablaze in a variety of different ways. Everything is consistent, but in wholly unique ways.