Published Apr 02, 2015In the last line on "The Dirt," Katie Crutchfield declares: "I'm a basement brimming with nothing great." And while she manages to retain her lo-fi, studio-eschewing, home-recorded, basement-esque sound on Ivy Tripp, Waxahatchee's third full-length offering is far from "nothing great."
Opening on distorted, droning guitar fuzz with touches of a synth-y melody sprinkled throughout, "Breathless" makes it clear that Crutchfield has stepped up her sound production-wise, though her knack for minimalist music as a vehicle for her knife-in-the-gut lyrics and vocal delivery remains as intact as ever.
Amidst lighter moments (like the bubble-gummy, saccharine ooh's of "La Loose" or the bright acoustic guitar and childlike piano playing on "Grey Hair"), there's still an abundance of the uncertainty, anger, sadness and regret that has always made Waxahatchee songs simultaneously so comforting and unsettling.
Her voice drips with ambiguity as she spits "What do you want? What do you need?" on "Poison," leaving the listener unsure if she's trying to convey malice or sympathy. It rings again as she turns the tables and asks, "What do I need? What do I think?," cementing the album's overarching themes of her generation's insecurity, listlessness and lack of direction. (In interviews, Crutchfield has explained that an "ivy trip" is a phrase she made up to describe her generation's desire to wander freely, as opposed to settling into their parents' clichéd patterns.)
On tracks like "Air" and "<" Crutchfield shows that she still knows to perfectly transform failed relationships and self-loathing into sweet, sad pop songs, though it's "Half Moon" that stands out as her melancholic masterpiece on the album. It wouldn't sound out of place on Waxahatchee's lovably ramshackle, ultra-confessional debut LP, American Weekend; indeed, the pounding piano and heartbreaking vocals are reminiscent of that album's "Noccalula," but here, Crutchfield strips the layer of distortion from her voice and self-admittedly amateurish piano playing to put them front and centre. It's a sparse, crystalline, full-blown ballad, proving that sometimes the simplest songs are the most gut-wrenching.
Ivy Tripp is not a record about being in love and it's not a record about getting your heart broken; it's about the foggy, messy tangle of the feelings in between. And they've never sounded so good. (Merge)