Katie Crutchfield has been gathering plaudits galore in her guise as Waxahatchee, often teaming with her twin sister Allison and her (now former) boyfriend Keith Spencer among others to create some very beguiling music. This appears to continue with her new album Ivy Tripp, which adds some intriguing tweaks on the formula established in 2013’s “Cerulean Salt.”
Crutchfield has said that the album title refers to “a term for directionless-ness…specifically of the 20, 30 and 40 somethings of today.” This comes through in the opening track “Breathless,” full of contrasting, jarring organ noise, and lyrics that feature both Crutchfield sisters harmonizing on the vital line “I’m not trying to be seen.” Another song featuring such world-weary sentiments is the beautiful and sparse “Half Moon,” a solo piano track by Crutchfield. The song could be referring to Crutchfield’s recent break-up with Spencer, as the lyric “Our love tastes like sugar but it pulls all the life out of me” seems to refer to a relationship in great difficulty.
The album isn’t all discord however, as several of the tracks feature Crutchfield and her band rocking out, garage punk style. The single “Under A Rock” begins with a strummed guitar before exploding into an indie/punk rock thrash, once more with lyrics referring to a relationship just ended. The album’s final track “Bonfire” is particularly compelling as it begins in a hail of radio static and feedback before descending into a guitar and drum duet, then ending once more in feedback and noise. This song in particular shows why there will be three guitarists on stage, including Spencer, when Waxahatchee tours the album.
The album contains plenty of garage rock, but it’s the less driving songs that really caught my attention. “Air” is reminiscent of Kate Bush, and the blues-like dirge of “<" contains the haunting lyric "you’re less than me and I am nothing," a line that Morrissey would be proud of. The acoustic lament "Summer of Love," recorded outside and featuring a dog barking, is a sad look back once again at a relationship that has just ended. "The summer of love is a photo of us" indeed. While major mainstream success may elude Crutchfield, it’s not difficult to see why critics have been running out of superlatives for this album - a series of very affecting songs that I’m sure many people drifting through life will relate to. Crutchfield seems to be saying to her listeners "I understand your pain and I empathize" and that’s a gift that very few artists have.