Album Review: Waxahatchee, ‘Ivy Tripp’
“You’re less than me / I’m nothing,” Katie Crutchfield -- who goes by the stage moniker Waxahatchee, which is lifted from a neighboring creek in her Alabama hometown -- sings on Ivy Tripp. With the help of her 2012 debut, American Weekend, and the 2013 follow-up, Cerulean Salt, this fierce introspection and honesty is something we have come to expect from the now New York-based singer-songwriter. However, the sheer magnitude of the self-doubt packed into those lines belies just how far Crutchfield has come in the past three years.
Previously, those baldly confessional lyrics cut through their bedroom recordings, making for a thought-provoking simplicity that allowed Crutchfield's vocals to haunt listeners long after the two albums' respective conclusions. With Ivy Tripp, Crutchfield realizes picking up a guitar and adding some dynamism to her arrangements doesn’t by any means distract or lessen the impact of her acutely self-aware and reflective songwriting.
This is immediately established on lead-off track, “Breathless,” which eases us into this new incarnation of Waxahatchee. Opening with droning synths, Crutchfield’s vocals enter drenched in a fuzzy reverb while still serving up some her most compelling lyrics on the entire album: “You see me / How I wish I was / But I’m not trying to be seen,” and later still, “You indulge me / I indulge you / But I’m not trying to have it all.” The delicate, recurring inflections of her vocals, which culminate in knowingly contradictory “la, la, las,” tell us this is the Crutchfield we know and love, but she’s ready to explore new territory.
While "Breathless" was a means of giving listeners a somewhat familiar track to settle into, Crutchfield doesn’t waste anymore time telling you what these new sonic landscapes will look like. “Under a Rock,” a delightfully infectious pop nugget, follows only to segue into the grungy, relentless guitars heard on “Poison.” Similarly, “The Dirt” picks up that momentum later on, as Crutchfield delivers an acerbic takedown of an ex over peppy guitars and drums.
Even so, Crutchfield still knows when to step back and let her vocals do the heavy lifting, with quieter, more restrained moments like “Stale By Noon.” Here, her sharp observations recognize the end of a relationship as she sings in a lonely, hollow-sounding warble, “I can imitate some kind of love / Or I could see it for what it is and stop kidding myself / We are not that alike.”
Still penning songs that are just as deeply revealing as ever, but now unafraid to set them to fuller, more powerful backdrops, Ivy Tripp announces a newly realized version of Crutchfield, who will surely resonate with her listeners even more than before.