Album Review – Ivy Tripp / Waxahatchee

Ivy Tripp is Waxahatchee’s most accomplished album yet. It comes after two albums in two consecutive years, one (American Weekend) being a fuzzy bedroom recording of acoustic tearjerkers and one (Cerulean Salt) that had a more polished sound, consisting of the acoustic songs and more indie-rock songs such as ‘Coast To Coast’ and ‘Misery Over Dispute’. Ivy Tripp has more in common with the second album, if not more going into electric territory with the taster single ‘Under a Rock’ being two minute of college-rock that wouldn’t go amiss from a Breeders album. The album centres around the theme of ‘Ivy Tripping’, which is a term coined by Katie Crutchfield about directionless 20-somethings. The lyrics are still angry towards an unnamed partner, but now instead of knocking out lyrics like ‘The atmosphere is fucking tiring’ from ‘Blue Part II’ on Cerulean Salt, Ivy Tripp is more of a seething, underlying anger. There’s still the self-loathing, with Crutchfield singing ‘I selfishly want you here to stick to’ on ‘La Loose’. Crutchfield is still balancing up the negatives of both herself and the opposing side, often switching sides and contradicting herself, but that’s all the fault of Ivy Tripping.

The quiet moments are generally where Waxahatchee delivers the most emotional impact. On the subdued ‘Stale By Noon’, Crutchfield sings ‘I get lost looking up’ and on the piano-led and beautiful ‘Half Moon’ she sings ‘our love tastes like sugar but it pulls the life out of me’. ‘Summer of Love’ is the only solo acoustic track on Ivy Tripp and sounds like it could have been pulled off American Weekend, with the simplistic four-chord repetition backed by Crutchfield singing ‘The summer of love is a photo of us’ like a picture of nostalgia to a happier day when she wasn’t so cold and harsh. Crutchfield admits her faults, but she never apologises for them.

The louder tracks on Ivy Tripp ‘Under a Rock’ and ‘the Dirt’ are full of the ferocity that would align Waxahatchee with her sister’s band Swearin’ and Courtney Barnett. They are generally the harsher tracks when it comes to lyrics too, such as ‘Now you’re someone elses mess tonight’ and ‘You’ll deliver a fable I could live / And I’ll throw it off the nearest cliff’. ‘Under A Rock’ has similarities with ‘Coast To Coast’ as they both clock around two minutes and are some of the louder moments of Waxahatchee. However, the most scathing lyric on Ivy Tripp comes from ‘<‘ (aka ‘Less Than’) where Crutchfield sings ‘You’re less than me and I am nothing’ like it’s the only thing she cares about. It’s the kind of moment in a song that sends shivers down your spine.

Ivy Tripp is a more cohesive record, both thematically and in songwriting. American Weekend sounded like a home demo with no interconnectedness and Cerulean Salt was good but not overall arc tied it together. Waxahatchee keeps returning to the theme of Ivy Tripping on Ivy Tripp, describing every fault of the directionless post-teenager getting their first whiff of the adult world and recoiling. They mess up relationships, they travel the world trying to get a grip on what they really want to do and become reclusive. In an internet generation, Waxahatchee talks of nature a lot, talking of ‘sugar-white beaches’ and ‘the stars are holding court’. It’s a cry for a more simplistic way of living, away from the distractions of modern life and adulthood. Even the album artwork has Crutchfield standing expressionless in a sea of leaves in a forest.

Waxahatchee struck gold on Cerulean Salt, but it was only a taster of the potential she could achieve. Ivy Tripp is like part two of the Cerulean Salt musically, but goes above and beyond what the second album did lyrically. The lyrics are still uncondensed and sometimes too vague to grapple, but everything becomes clear soon enough. It’s also a haunting expression of the transition to adulthood and the responsibilities that come with it. ‘Bonfire’, the last song and one of the best on Ivy Tripp is about a third person watching a relationship disintegrate. The instrumentation is fuzzy and downbeat, but the ending line is ‘I say go ahead’, which is an unusual sentence of spontaneity from Waxahatchee, away from the pre-planning and analytical thinking of the rest of the album. Maybe she’s just Ivy Tripping.

8/10

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