Monday, 6 April 2015
Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp review
As Waxahatchee, Katie Crutchfield has created not one, but two of my favourite records of all time. Drenched in reverb, 2012's American Weekend was lo-fi in every sense of the word, yet the melodies and stark truths delivered with every lyric made the record feel cozy and familiar to even the most casual of listeners. Its follow-up (and Waxahatchee's breakthrough) Cerulean Salt was slightly sharper production-wise, yet Crutchfield's blunt lyrics ensured that the charm was kept alive. Even when you count the releases of P.S Eliot (the duo completed by Katie's twin sister, Allison Crutchfield of Swearin'), her discography is still pretty concise for such a substantial artist in the 'indie world' today (if there is such a thing...perhaps 'the Pitchfork world' would be more apt). But with Waxahatchee it has always been about quality over quantity; in the two LPs she's dropped (excluding Ivy Tripp) you'll find some of my favourite tracks of all time such as 'Be Good', 'Coast To Coast', 'Swan Dive' and 'Catfish', and they're all pretty short.
As American Weekend and Cerulean Salt were my favourite albums of their respective years of release, my expectations for Ivy Tripp upon release were insanely high, to the point where I subconsciously knew that that disappointment was inevitable. And I must admit, this is not an instant record by any means; more so than any other Waxahatchee release, Ivy Tripp takes time and effort to equate yourself with, simply because the melodies aren't as instant on the whole. That being said, there are a fair few tracks which would fit seamlessly on Cerulean Salt; 'Under A Rock' and 'Poison' remind us all how rocking out is essentially second nature for a Crutchfield, the latter in particular contains a riff so powerful that creeps up on you as the track blazes on and reverberates in your brain for hours afterwards. At the opposite end of the spectrum there are more overtly melancholic campfire songs like 'Summer of Love', which I was initially convinced was already track on Cerulean Salt. The familiarity of tracks such as these make this record more easy to sink into and thus allow you to digest the more left-field moments that surround them.
As this was Waxhatchee's first record on indie giant Merge records, I was expecting some bolder moments on Ivy Tripp, I was not let down in the slightest. 'La Loose', which is the most off-kilter track on the album, sticks out in Crutchfield's discography like a sore thumb but for all the right reasons. For this synthy ditty, Katie puts her guitar to one side, replacing it with fluttering synths and cutesy ooh ooh ooh's and the result is a super fun and endearing bop. Once you hear this track, getting through the rest of record is a struggle, especially when the following track ('Stale By Moon') is one of the dullest she's ever produced. The opening track 'Breathless' and the closer 'Bonfire' act as bookends for the record, both soaked in suffocating static which is so intense it devour your mind. This heavy and uncompromising approach is not an unfamiliar one, but the way it closes the record leaves a aptly bitter taste in my mouth once the record ends.
Even if Ivy Tripp didn't exactly grab me at first listen, once you warm up to its quirks it becomes utterly captivating, almost like an ugly pet that you can't help but love. And having had time to take it all in, I can honestly say that I do love this record. I love that I haven't been able to stop playing La Loose (still listening to it as I type), I love that it feels like I've been loosing my shit to Poison for a year already and I love that Air is already an absolute classic, in my book at least. At its core Ivy Tripp is a beast and it will consume you hole once you let your guard down, which is ironic considering that this is one of Crutchfield's for defiant and stoic records lyrically. Well I assume that is the case, there is a lyric on the track 'Less Than' (<) which has perplexed me since the day I heard it; I'm not sure if "you're less than me, I am nothing' is empowering or self-deprecating, but regardless it's a powerful sentiment and one which I feel sums up Ivy Tripp as a whole.
Best tracks: Breathless, Air, La Loose, Under A Rock, Poison, Summer Of Love, Bonfire