Release Date: Apr 7, 2015
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Twee Pop
In 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.
Waxahatchee is now the kind of project to get Katie Crutchfield profiled in The New Yorker. Her songwriting chops prove better with each new release, making Ivy Tripp her most accomplished outing yet. Even if her music is clearly influenced by the best lo-fi sound/hi-fi emotionality records of the ‘90s, she’s been keying in on timelessness since the get-go, and the door has finally swung wide open.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Katie Crutchfield's ascent to indie stardom has been steep and unobstructed, with due reason. Under the moniker Waxahatchee, borrowed from the name of a creek near her childhood Alabama home, she has released two extraordinary records of lo-fi alternative rock that have received extensive critical praise.
Katie Crutchfield is important to a lot of people. She's just 26, but with more than a dozen releases to her name courtesy of projects like P.S. Eliot, collaborations like Great Thunder, and assorted guest spots here and there, she comes off like the leader of a DIY folk-inflected indie rock/punk scene, a spokesperson for a realm usually against spokespeople.
With her 2013 sophomore album Cerulean Salt, singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield's solo vehicle Waxahatchee came into its own, filtering her roots in energetic punk into a set of immediately resonating songs that were equally introspective and nakedly honest. The album caught on in a huge way, with the full-band version of Waxahatchee touring internationally for the next year or so, meeting a new and growing fan base with dozens of performances. Third album Ivy Tripp sounds like the reflections of an artist coming fresh from the extreme highs and lows of accelerated personal and musical growth, with tighter performances, more direct sentiments, and an undeniable confidence that comes through even when Crutchfield is addressing aimlessness and floundering uncertainty.
On the first warm day before spring, I walked down to the river. I felt funny carrying two books of poetry and a journal. Climbing hills in black jeans and little gray shoes. I found a clearing shaped like a circle, where I stitched myself back together. You walked down to the river too, but you ….
On her first two albums, 2012’s ‘American Weekend’ and 2013’s ‘Cerulean Salt’, Alabama-raised singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield backed exquisitely delicate melodies with a tough grunge sensibility. The 26-year-old’s simple songs about love and loss cut deep, thanks to the bedroom production style and guitar more ragged than Kurt Cobain’s favourite cardigan. In the two years since ‘Cerulean Salt’, Crutchfield has become something of a poster girl for heavy-hearted indie kids.
In the three weeks I spent with Ivy Tripp, winter started inching toward spring. The changing of the seasons parallels the album nicely, as it is a transitional work. In it, singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield asks questions, makes indecisive statements, and tries to figure out the relation of her self-truths to the facts of those around her. Her never-ending checks and balances between “what do you want?” and “what do I want?” are a precise incarnation of a quarter-life crisis being messily (and boldly) lived through.
Katie Crutchfield’s career arc with her solo project, Waxahatchee, is predicated on incremental growth: records released by progressively larger labels, music recorded in increasingly higher fidelity, songs augmented by slightly expanded instrumentation. This slow-and-steady momentum suits the Birmingham, Alabama native’s songwriting, which relies not on grand proclamations, but on expressions of intimate emotional turmoil and ornate self-analysis. Ivy Tripp — Waxahatchee’s third full-length and first for major indie Merge — is certainly Crutchfield’s biggest leap forward to date, at least musically.
‘Ivy Tripp’ is a perfect continuation from its precursor, ‘Cerulean Salt’. The sound is a little tighter and the overall aesthetic is cleaner – especially when compared to Waxahatchee’s lo-fi debut. But one thing remains: the songs are impeccably written. Opening the band’s third release is ‘Breathless’.
Around the time of the release of her breakthrough album Cerulean Salt, a broadsheet newspaper described Katie Crutchfield – the Philadelphian singer-songwriter who releases music under the name of Waxahatchee – as “Lena Dunham with a guitar”. The tag stemmed from a comparison between Crutchfield’s then-itinerant lifestyle and the similarly skittish behaviour of Dunham’s character in Girls but, in turn, suggested that Waxahatchee’s music was likely to be as self-absorbed, funny and sexually forthright as Dunham’s televisual creations. As it happened, Cerulean Salt was none of those things.
Lord knows there’s enough millennial guilt clogging up the arteries of the internet. But Katie Crutchfield, a singer-songwriter from Birmingham, Alabama, is able to channel these now-familiar feelings into an album of alt-rock anthems for those seeking solace in an age of cynicism. Her third LP, Ivy Tripp – a term Crutchfield made up to describe “directionlessness, specifically of the twentysomething, thirtysomething, fortysomething of today” – maintains a sense of sincerity throughout, letting her purge her own thoughts while providing a sanctuary for her listeners.
Anyone craving a carbon copy sequel to 2013's exemplary Cerulean Salt should probably re-assess their expectations. Katie Crutchfield was a four-year veteran of punk pop band P.S. Eliot before launching her solo career; now three albums in, she's still only in her mid-20s. Until this point, her music had wrestled primarily with the ordeals of youth and growing up; perhaps, then, Ivy Tripp is the result of the years beginning to catch up with her.
Katie Crutchfield has traveled a long way in a few short years — much further than the geographical distance from Waxahatchee Creek in her native Alabama to the home studio and elementary school gymnasium in small-town Holbrook, Long Island, where she recorded her new album, Ivy Tripp. By now, most are familiar with the songwriter’s seemingly overnight ascent from writing and recording her trembling debut, American Weekend, while snowed in for a week in her parents’ home to becoming a critical darling following the release of 2013’s Cerulean Salt. But it feels cheap to measure Crutchfield’s journey as Waxahatchee in terms of glowing notices, the “right kind” of buzz, or social media upticks.
Two years ago, Waxahatchee's bracingly intense Cerulean Salt made punk singer-guitarist Katie Crutchfield an indie star. Now she is terrified of slowing down. "I can be a ray of light," she sings on "Stale by Noon," "but you are always in my head." It's one of many songs where Crutchfield loses patience with herself or others: "I left you out like a carton of milk," she admits on the breakup jam "Air," frustrated by her own listless ways.
I keep thinking about this one post on Tumblr which has clocked up like a quarter-million notes, which takes a lyric from Grass Stain from Waxahatchee's no-fi solo acoustic debut, American Weekend, and gives it the all-caps italicised Jenny Holzer treatment - because it seems at odds with the understated presentation of Katie Crutchfield's music but totally in keeping with the righteousness of her songs (to quote the same song, “I don't care / If I'm too young to be unhappy”). On some level, Waxahatchee is a feminist statement about feeling entitled to her feelings, not having to be ashamed of them, and it's also the reason she's so important to a lot of people. Ivy Tripp, her third record, sounds very different to that debut, not just for its studio fidelity (which doesn't mar its decidedly homespun presentation) but because of a shift in Katie Crutchfield's songwriting process, from flowing and beautifully enjambed to a terser, more segmented lyrical and melodic style – all of which make it very similar in tone to Cerulean Salt, her breakout record.
opinion bySAMUEL TOLZMANN < @scatlint > On “Breathless,” the sober dirge that rather reluctantly opens singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield’s third and best album as Waxahatchee, Crutchfield’s clear but bruised alto heaves itself out from under a sludge of coarse bass and cheap organ. The song has the glacial pacing and gradually asphyxiating repetition of late-‘90s Low or Smog, and thematically, it has some of their unremitting, nearly masochistic bleakness, too, as Crutchfield repeats every third of her wistful lines like she’s so lonely that she’s clinging to it for the company: “you always walked so slow,” “we could be good for days,” “a sad story with an end,” “and I could just close my eyes. ” It all sounds the way depression feels when it’s so acute the world seems underwater.
Over the course of three releases, certain expectations about Waxahatchee’s sound have been established, whether bandleader Katie Crutchfield likes it or not. It’s those preconceptions—that her standards are haunting acoustic guitar ballads and bouncy pop songs—that make the blast of noise that opens Ivy Tripp so startling. This burst of rattling static is the harshest noise that’s made its way onto a Waxahatchee release, shaking speakers and all the projected notions of Crutchfield’s music in the process.
A few years ago I attended an art exhibition at Shandy Hall, the North Yorkshire home where Laurence Sterne composed his masterpiece, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. On display were various artistic interpretations and adaptations of Shandy, but one in particular stayed with me: every instance of the word “I” in Sterne’s novel had been removed from the pages with a hole-punch, placed inside a perspex box, and was being blown around by a small fan. Tristram’s relationship with that word is famously ambiguous: the book is nominally his autobiography, but he is serially unable to tell his own story without falling into digressions and anecdotes about his family, so that each of those little “I”s tumbling around in the display referred to an unknowable speaker, any of the multitude of characters to whom Tristram gives parts of his narrative.
The wonderful mix of loud and soft songs on the third Waxahatchee record seems to reflect the frail/bold thing New York City-via-Alabama singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield has going on. Her voice is everything - muscular, with gritty edges, slinging forceful lines about the uncertainty of youth in an anxious but never angry way. "What do I want / What do I need / I take all the space I need," she sings on Poison.
Katie Crutchfield's infamous melancholy and aggressive angst find fullest expression on the Alabama native's third album. Brutally extracted lo-fi dirge, opener "Breathless" belies the heavily scarred electric guitars that follow with "Under a Rock" and "Poison," as well as the pop tinge of "La Loose" and "Stale by Noon," yet sets an anxious, searching tone. Calmer moments "Blue," "Summer of Love," and piano ballad "Half Moon" stun in their directness, while "The Dirt" grinds Nineties rock and "Bonfire" chars a bassline to close in self-immolation.
Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield writes about the in-between moments. Her characters are moving out of relationships and drifting. The future is open-ended and full of question marks, but amid the anxiety there's also a sense of possibility, if not optimism. "What's next?" doesn't have to be a cause for alarm.
Waxahatchee’s Cerulean Salt was one of 2013’s rawest pleasures, a flayed-open honesty framed in the barest kinds of guitar arrangements. The follow-up, Ivy Tripp, is both more substantial and less weighty, its denser arrangements cushioning but not entirely blunting Katie Crutchfield’s naked emotional appeal. It begins in “Breathless,” a drone of organ, a buzz of feedback, Crutchfield chanting more than she’s singing, and drawing the vowels out in long, self-lacerating ooos.