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Some more Waxahatchee

After yesterday's posting of their early stuff, John N submits the most recent "proper" album from
Waxahatchee, whom I mentioned opened for Sleater Kinney in December. I did enjoy the set opening for SK, also enjoyed the EP from yesterday and figured maybe I should learn bit more about Waxahatchee.......so here's some info on Katie Crutchfield, and this album, "Ivy Tripp"....

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 spotsHERE 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.
Crutchfield grew up in Alabama, naming her project after Waxahatchee Creek, where her parents have a house on a lake and where she's made a lot of her music. She's in PhiladelphiaNOW, an East Coast city that's cheaper than New York and that allows for more time to make music and just live. It follows, then, that there's a thriving scene there, too, with groups like Radiator Hospital (featuring one-time Waxahatchee member Sam Cook-Parrott) and members of her twin sister (and ex-P.S. Eliot bandmate) Allison's band Swearin', among others.
Ivy Tripp, her third album as Waxahatchee,FINDSher fronting a band featuring multi-instrumentalists Kyle Gilbride and Keith Spencer (both from Swearin') and still coming off very much like she did on 2012's lo-fi solo effort, American Weekend. She's managed to bring in contributors and a greater range of instrumentation without losing that approachable intimacy. 2013's Cerulean Salt technically had morePEOPLE playing on it, but Ivy Tripp just FEELSbigger, in part because Crutchfield is growing steadily more confident. The songs are more cohesive and accomplished—polished isn't the right word, butNOW and then, there is a kind of shine. Ceruleancame off like an extension of American Weekend: it surfaced just as many people were discovering the earlier record, and someLISTENERS were confused by the timeline and which came first. Ivy Tripp, her first album for Merge, feels more like a next step, something that exists on its own, and a move toward something else entirely.
In a statement about the album, Crutchfield said the title of the record is "just aTODAY, lacking regard for the complacent life path of our parents and grandparents." She added: "I have thought of it like this: Cerulean Salt is a solid and Ivy Tripp is a gas." ThisMAKE sense. Cerulean was an album about growing up and losing your innocence and Ivy seems to be about knowing yourself as a grown up, being in the middle of that, and figuring out what comes next. The past is definable and relatively solid; the future is more amorphous and trickier to capture or pin down. You get that sense, ofSEARCHING, of grasping at something you don't entirely understand, in the album's lyrics and overall narrative.

The exact "Ivy Tripp" line on the record is "Travel the world ivy tripping/ With no spotlight," and it's interesting to see where she's at now, as the spotlight finds itsFOCUS. On "Grey Hair" she sings: "You might, wait and see me become/ A candle, precarious psychically among/ The ill at ease, the summer breeze/ But sugar soda pop songs play on the radio." And, as she noted about the record, "I think a running theme [of Ivy Tripp] is steadying yourself on shaky ground and reminding yourself that you have control in situations that seem overwhelming." She doesn't deny the ambition either: "IGET short of breath because I can’t slow down," she sings ("Grey Hair").
Many of Ivy Tripp's song titles—"The Dirt", "Half Moon", "Bonfire"—are dusky and colored like earth tones, and that's the setting of the songs as well: moments in transition, the realm between night and day and relationships that have that same kind of momentary feeling. The lyrics feature many maybes and more than a few temporary situations ("You can lean on me forNOW" in "La Loose"), unread books, and things that may or may not have already ended. "I’ll try to preserve the routine/ And I don’t want to discuss what it means," Crutchfield sings on "La Loose". People "pretend to be strangers/ Lamenting a means to an end" ("Air") and "imitate some kind of love" ("Stale By Noon") instead of just being in love. Music's an "imperfect escape" ("Half Moon").
A low-levelANXIETY pervades, and on a song simply titled "<" she offers an update on the Blank Generation: "You’re less than me and I am nothing," goes the chorus. Earlier, in "The Dirt", she sings "I’m a basement brimming with nothing great." In "Summer of Love", a photo of people, and not the actual people, are the subject: "The colors allure me but I can’t make out/ A face in the picture of palm trees/ The summer of love is a photo of us.""Sugar" comes up a lot—a sweet thing without a lot of substance, but that tastes good. There's a penchant for finding beauty in small gestures and situations like sleeping or refusing to leave the beach. As well as bigger ones: "You’ll deliver a fable I couldLIVE/ And I’ll throw it off the nearest cliff," she sings in "The Dirt".
The one thing that can drag Ivy Tripp down a little is that the lyrics are at times a bit vague or interchangeable. It turns out discussing emptiness can maybe feel a bit empty, and the wordsHEREdon't always hit as hard as some of her prior work. That said, the way the words are delivered is essential, and with a voice like Crutchfield's—both rough and clear with a slight Southern twang—a lot gets said simply in how these things are enunciated.
That, and the album features a few of Crutchfield's best and catchiest songs. She's mentioned anINTEREST in the New Zealand lo-fi pop band Tall DwarfsIvy Tripp has the feel of classic indie rock. You'll be reminded of other groupsHERE and there: "The Dirt" sounds a lot like the Vaselines, at least compositionally, and much of it would fit in very well at the original International Pop Underground Convention, on Simple Machines, or with '90s Merge acts like Butterglory or Bricks (the fact that she did sign to MergeMAKES perfect sense—Crutchfield and her cohorts carry the same torch as Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance). She's mentioned Joni Mitchell time again, as well as Cat Stevens, though on Ivy, you may think more about Cat Power'sWhat Would the Community Think.
Maybe as aRESULT of the cross-pollination and familiarity, there's a casual feel to Ivy Tripp, something about it that's unhurried and relaxed. Which doesn't mean it isn't ambitious or accomplished. This is one way it's most reminiscent of the best '90s indie rock: it never feels forced or like she's making some kind of push. It's unhurried and natural and real. You also get a feeling listening to these songs that Crutchfield is justGETTING STARTED, and it's exciting to hear a young voice rising so assuredly above the fray, one you can imagine inspiring kids years from now, and inspiring them to pick up guitars and sing and take control of their direction, too.
01 Breathless/02 Under a Rock/03 Poison/04 La Loose/05 Stale By Noon/06 The Dirt/07 Blue/08 Air/09 Less Than/10 Grey Hair/11 Summer of  Love/12 Half Moon/13 Bonfire

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