2020, Music

Saint Cloud (2020) by Waxahatchee

I have listened to a lot of alt country in my life. For a while, in my late 20s and early 30s, it might have been one of my favourite genres. So I have standards. This record doesn’t meet them.

For me, alt country is the intersection between alternative music and country, as its name indicates, but where the aesthetics of alternative, which come from punk, bring country back to a place recognizable as country as opposed to pop or rock. During the heyday of alt country and 1990s (and even when it first appeared in the 1980s), country was more and more turning into commercial pop and rock music. (Now it is more and more turning into hip hop and R&B, which is really, really, really weird.)

I don’t know what alt country means in the 2020s. To go by this record, it’s “indie country” basically, but less “indie” than the vast majority of indie music made in the 1990s, certainly. Crutchfield’s voice is not exactly traditional. It sounds a little bit like what I would imagine an “indie country” singer would sound like, with a little twang but a lot of the non-professional sound I associate with so many indie singers throughout the history of the various indie genres. It’s not her voice that’s the problem necessarily, though I would like this more if she was a more engaging performer.

The problem for me is the music: it’s just middle-of-the-road country and folk played professionally with very few warts. The point of alt country and the point of indie before it was mainstream was the warts. The only wart or sandpaper I detect here is Crutchfield’s voice. And, as I said, I don’t like her performance enough for that to win me over.

This, to me, is just pleasant but not particularly compelling 21st century country music that still manages to sound like country rather than pop. I just don’t hear much here for me. It’s like the Jayhawks but with a singer who grew up listening to indie rock and pop. The Jayhawks were never among my favourite alt country bands because they always struck me as too polished even if they helped invent the genre.


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