#46. Waxahatchee: Ivy Tripp
Waxahatchee is neither a solo artist nor a band. The name has become synonymous with singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield, but it’s actually its own independent entity, an indie folk project that she started back in 2010. It’s similar to Pretty Lights, a music project founded by Derek Vincent Smith that is widely misinterpreted as his alias. The difference is that Waxahatche isn’t just a solo project. Crutchfield works closely with many other indie musicians, both on their own music and within Waxahatchee.
With each album, she sounds more confident in her own talent. The first two Waxahatchee albums were both solid releases in their own right, but with each subsequent album Crutchfield sounds less preoccupied with what a folk album should sound like. On Ivy Tripp she takes her most top-down approach to songwriting yet. Instead of trying to write a folk song, or a rock song, it sounds like she trusts the songs to choose their own direction. It’s a subtle difference from the last two albums, but her writing is a bit more self-assured and free, and she doesn’t sound like she’s basing her music on any indie precedents set by other artists.
In a press release from her new label Merge Records, Crutchfield said that Ivy Tripp is a term she came up with to represent the relative “directionless-ness” of her generation (she’s 27). This theme of “lacking regard for the complaisant life path of our parents and grandparents” explains the freeness of her songwriting, and it also shows up in the album’s lyrics. On the meditative ballad “Stale by Noon” she repeats the phrase “I get lost looking up.” As soon as the track’s understated keyboards come to a halt, the rest of the band jumps in on “The Dirt” for an upbeat indie rock jam about “(wasting one’s) boredom hastily.” “I’m a basement brimming with nothing great,” Crutchfield intones amidst a sea of crash cymbals and electric guitars.
Like “The Dirt,” many of the songs on Ivy Tripp are lyrically through-composed, save for some repeated phrases over their outros. The phrase hammered home at the end of “<” is directed at a man: “I am nothing / you’re less than me,” Crutchfield sings as her band raises the tension with a frantic drum solo and dissonant guitar riffs. Some of the most exciting moments are ones like this when the whole band is playing, but the album’s heart is its central track, “Blue.” The rest of the band drops out and leaves behind nothing but a soothing guitar riff that falls somewhere between stately and insouciant. It’s on this fleeting gem that Crutchfield gets to the core of Ivy Tripp—indifference versus wanderlust. Over the course of these thirteen tracks she puts up a compelling argument for the latter. Whatever directionless journey she took to make this album brought her closer than she’s ever been to finding her voice as a songwriter. If she continues in this direction, we can expect some great things from the next Waxahatchee album.