Waxahatchee's previous albums include 2013's Cerulean Salt and 2015's Ivy Tripp. Photo: Jesse Riggins

Out in the Storm, Katie Crutchfield’s fourth album as Waxahatchee, is her most focused and revealing to date.

The highly-anticipated follow up to 2015’s Ivy Tripp, Out in the Storm explores the demise of her toxic relationship, touching on themes of loneliness, emotional pain and – ultimately – acceptance, strength, and self-love.

The album has a distinct sonic aesthetic, driven almost entirely by heavy guitars and garage rock drums, harkening back to the peak of 90s indie rock without becoming drenched in nostalgia.

Out in the Storm uses less synths than Ivy Tripp, and when they are – on slower, reflective tracks like Recite Remorse – they convey an air of reserved isolation, ethereal and haunting.

The opening track, Never Been Wrong, is a violent, jubilant explosion of abrasive guitars, as Crutchfield tries to fix herself for a person that’s unwilling to change. She sees through the facades of her lover, only to be the one that knows the true cruelty that lies behind the mask.

On 8 Ball and Brass Beam, under rollicking rhythms and aggressive-but-tempered guitar, Waxahatchee rails against her lover’s projection of their own insecurities, knowing that despite her imperfections, what this person says about or does to her no longer has any bearing on her existence.

It’s a sense of freedom – that she is free to live life by her own rules – that continues on Silver and closing track Fade, beneath catchy guitar hooks and burbling bass.

The album’s themes of liberty reach an apex on Sparks Fly, an example of Crutchfield’s innovative and clever songwriting style. Using a phrase usually used to convey the connection between two people, she instead describes reconnecting with herself, unencumbered by a noxious person and singing: “Tonight I laugh, I say whatever I want”.

And on No Question, Waxahatchee thunders in, explaining her regret on staying in a relationship that was cursed from the start. She’s embarrassed, but if we don’t learn anything else from this record, we learn that she has grown with experience, turning them into the songs of her most honest and beautiful work.

Out in the Storm is out now via Merge Records.