As a lyricist, Katie Crutchfield, a.k.a. Waxahatchee, specializes in the transient. Rather than going for sweeping declarations of love and longing, she goes for the subtleties. Her previous albums, American Weekend and Cerulean Salt have gone for the stripped down guitar and an eight track aesthetic of indie folk scenes. Now, with Ivy Tripp Crutchfield is exploring pairing her poignant lyrics with some well-placed studio synths.
Though she’s releasing this record through indie giant Merge, Crutchfield’s D.I.Y. sensibilities are still evident. The opening track, “Breathless,” starts off with a staticky lo-fi organ bolstering Crutchfield as she croons, “We could be good for days.”
The second track, “Under a Rock,” is reminiscent of Crutchfield’s earlier work with its unplugged electric guitar accompaniment leading up to sprawling drums. It’s similar to Cerulean Salt’s “Misery Over Dispute.”
A strength of the album is definitely the finesse of the track listing. Crutchfield’s previous albums sometimes lost the listener by clustering the more mellow tracks together and creating a musical plateau. By contrast, Ivy Tripp experiments with the musical tension created by pairing mellow tracks with borderline indie pop singles.
With “La Loose,” Crutchfield pairs breathy back-up vocals with a drum machine providing a ’60s pop beat. The result is infectiously catchy, an indie ear worm for the masses. The bubblegum beat coupled with the shamelessly earnest nature of the lyrics is reminiscent of early ’60s girl groups like the Ronettes or the Shangri-Las.
However, just because she knows her way around a pop song doesn’t mean that Crutchfield deviates from her well-loved boundless garage rock aesthetic. For the second half of the album, the tracks maintain a jangly rhythmic quality similar to garage rock. The low-key afternoon-beach-vibes of tracks like blue where Crutchfield sings, “We/ we never leave the beach/ we’ll grow numb to the mystique/ and the world spins as we sleep.”
The ethos of the album seems most evident on tracks like “Poison” and “Air,” where the guitars are feedback laden and her voice is boundless. Air was the first single off the album and it was clearly evident of Crutchfield’s new artistic direction. The soaring vocals and layered instrumental tracks indicated the more musically sophisticated direction, which Crutchfield has been exploring.
It’s clear that Katie Crutchfield has come a long way since she was part of P.S. Elliot with her sister Allison back in 2011. Surprisingly, Crutchfield seems comfortable with the bold implications of a studio-produced album. It seems like the right format for Crutchfield to fully realize her vision as a musician, the opportunity to experiment with layering instrumental tracks and self-made back up vocals has only served to spotlight the subtle brilliance of her lyrics.
Crutchfield’s skills as a lyricist have also improved significantly; with Ivy Tripp she seems much more self aware, acknowledging how the emotional pain afflicted within relationships often goes both ways.
Overall, the critical reception of Ivy Tripp has been great, garnering Crutchfield a New Yorker profile, and NPR’s Eric Ducker called Ivy Tripp “fantastic.”
Ivy Tripp has served as the perfect addition to summer festival season. She recently played at the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival. This May, Waxahatchee will be heading to Chicago with Chicago-based band Carbonleak. They’ll be playing the Empty Bottle on May 8, a limited number of tickets will be available at the door. If you’re like me, and the Empty Bottle’s 21+ philosophy continually crushes your dreams, then you can catch Waxahatchee at Pitchfork on July 19th.
Cover image courtesy of Merge Records