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Tigers Blood



Yule Fish

GENRE: Indie Rock, Folk Rock
LABEL: Anti-
REVIEWED: April 24, 2024

In 2024, music plays all the time. It trickles through shitty sound systems everywhere: the gas station, the dentist, the big-box stores. This wanton stream of any music everywhere can sometimes be cool and evocative, but often it’s just irritating. I’m a snob and I like to choose the music for the soundtrack of my life, not just have it accost me when I’m peeing in a random public restroom or eating slop at some fast food chain. The shoveled-down-your-throat music landscape is enabled by infinite playlists that reward homogeneity over originality. Musicians might not even get compensated if their music can’t slot in with a particular vintage-y sound from the past.

This last Christmas my family brought an old friend of ours a very old bottle of wine. The friend is a renowned environmentalist, grizzly bear expert, journalist, veteran and writer who lives in the valley that borders the town I grew up in. We sat around his table looking across his yard at the mountain range beyond. We took turns with binocs looking for a carcass he had seen in the distance. As our friend delicately dug the rotting cork out of the bottle, he paused to turn on “Like A Rolling Stone”. When the jangle of Dylan came on I remembered that special music has often played behind special moments in life. Maybe this is the wishful thinking that streaming has chased to mindless excess. When it’s good, it’s amazing, it makes everything warmer, heartfelt and makes you take an appreciative pause. Some songs are for listening by yourself, and some can be used to enhance those special moments while singing of their own. Many recently released albums seemingly opt to be background genre music, which stands in opposition to the music that cements a memory. Waxahatchee aka Katie Crutchfield’s album Tigers Blood bucks the muzak trend. It celebrates songwriting and the songwriter, whose task it is to turn a singular experience into a universal truth.

Tigers Blood brings a homemade sheet cake to the party and leaves it among the Lofthouse pink frosted cookie albums. The record features Crutchfield’s vocals over a frosting-like groove of interlocking instrumentation. As a singer I admire her melodies and toplines because I understand that it looks into a world deeper than her indie past. Crutchfield’s melodic choices are reminiscent of the gullies, hills and hollers of Dolly Parton’s voice. Take the context out of its country Americana trappings and she could be writing for a pop diva like Olivia Rodrigo or Billie Eilish. 

As a part-time indie chick, I know there is a tendency for us to glide along with the bass notes of our guitar as we grip it in hand, often looking like we haven’t brushed our hair. Bearing that in mind, it’s inspiring to see Crutchfield embrace softness without being twee. “Right Back to It” is a beautifully meandering song that examines Crutchfield’s own fears and anxieties. Her strength lies in the simple lines with specific images. In the song, “Lonestar,” Crutchfield takes listeners on a road trip while pondering a relationship. It’s set to the scenery of a drive to a lake in Kansas where she describes dead deer, turkey wheat and orange and pink sunsets.  

More lyrical favorites are “Burns Out At Midnight” and “Tigers Blood”. Both have a bit of Americana imagery and country sensibility but they don’t feel bound to any genre. Instead the songs paint a portrait of the person and the world Crutchfield inhabits. My main gripes about the record are small production based details and most likely personal pet peeves. I sometimes want the drums to be sonically punchier and I don’t particularly want to hear the random voices at the end of the title track. On the other hand, none of this is really the point — the focus of the record is Crutchfield’s voice and lyrics. Everything else that follows doesn’t really matter. Overall Tigers Blood emanates a warmth and an acute attention to songcraft as Crutchfield’s voice floats over the top of the musical bed led by MJ Lenderman’s rollicking guitars. These regionally grounded songs dip in and out of scenes and remind us to reminisce. Family recipes, photographs, moments carefully preserved like gems.