If there’s anything I’ve learned from listening to Waxahatchee’s music, it is that less is more. The acoustic, lo-fi sound that frontwoman Katie Crutchfield brought on her first record, American Weekend, was something very special. Recorded solo by Crutchfield in her bedroom, the lo-fi recording style made the record as a whole seem so humble, yet it managed to be so emotionally piercing. On her first record as Waxahatchee, Crutchfield more so proved herself as an absolutely incredible songwriter, even more so than she did her other projects, P.S Eliot and Swearin’. While both of those bands are great and shine in their own way, it is easy to tell that she really found her footing in Waxahatchee.
Following American Weekend, Crutchfield released the band’s second full length, Cerulean Salt. On this record, she introduced a more cleaned up style of recording, prevalent drum sections, and electric guitars, bringing more of a cohesive, full band sound. While I still enjoyed the record as a whole, I feel like the project lost some of its charm in a way. Crutchfield still managed to highlight her emotionally brutal vocals, just in a more overall professional manner. On her third effort, Ivy Tripp, it seems that Crutchfield found the perfect balance of the sounds represented on her first and second albums.
Ivy Tripp opens up with some drawn out, fuzzed guitar, almost emulating the sound of American Weekend. Once you are greeted by Crutchfield’s clean vocals soaring into the mix, you realize that the advancement in sound made across the Waxahatchee discography was not lost. While this record more closely follows the full band structure showcased on Cerulean Salt, there are some really different, interesting, instrumental moments on this record.
The fourth track on Ivy Tripp, “La Loose,” features a backing synth, which happens pretty often on this record, but what makes this one stand out is that it features some electronic drums that seem almost funny to an extent.They actually sound like something you would hear on a children’s toy or a drum preset on a cheap thrift store keyboard. These drums paired with light vocals and ethereal “ooh, ooh, ooh, oooohs” make the track seem incredibly light and innocent, and Crutchfield’s lyrics match perfectly as she rings out over the synthline “My thoughtful consort / When the stars are holding court / We will be in another world / Where my clarity’s restored / And this charming picture of / Hysteria in love.”
I can’t think of many bad things to say about Ivy Tripp. While the song “<” is great track overall, it really seems to have a sort of strange abrupt ending. Same goes for the album closer “Bonfire.” It fails to produce a feeling of closure that I was hoping for, and seems like a bit of an anticlimactic ending. While Crutchfield creates some sort of vocal closure through her lyrics, the instrumentals leave a bit to be desired.
It is no surprise that Waxahatchee was able to create such an emotionally moving collection of tracks. To me, the emotion lost in translation over the instrumentals in Cerulean Salt was perfectly picked back up and showcased on Ivy Tripp. Crutchfield’s vocals never sound too detached from the instrumentals, and she always manages to deliver her lyrics in a way that perfectly matches them. I could go on and on about the interesting instrumental moments on Ivy Tripp, but you will really have to dig into the lyrics to understand what Waxahatchee is all about. Overall, the album comes as a pleasant surprise, showing that while Katie Crutchfield is only in her mid 20’s, she is truly at the top of her game right now. I can’t wait to see which direction she takes this project next.