Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp Review

Katie Crutchfield, more popularly known as Waxahatchee, has been abhorring monogamy her whole life despite drowning in the lust having a relationship offers. It's a confounding principle that drives her music, one that lingers in contradicting thoughts and feelings, something every relationship, no matter how long or short, connected or distant, can relate to. Her latest, Ivy Tripp, follows this pattern. Crutchfield herself has referred to the album as "a gas," meant to symbolize the foggy nature in which her thoughts have wandered, lost without a clear path in sight. On Ivy Tripp she finds herself stuck, pondering the relationship she endures as merely a means to an end, reminiscing on the past highs while suffering the current lows. Contained within the music itself is a paradoxical battle, as Waxahatchee's lyrics often veer into depressed, poetic refrains while the sonic palate behind her masquerades as a nostalgic vision to the summer picnic's forever remembered on the beach. With her heart firmly nestled in the past and her brain attempting to escape the present Waxahatchee crafts a memorizing piece of work that succumbs to palpable emotion written with an intensely personal touch, despite hiccups in the generic outcome of those sensations.

A relegation to singer-songwriter's typically results in a one-dimensional focus on vocals and acoustic guitar, often lacking a needed depth when exploring the confines of the songs. And while Crutchfield herself falls into these pitfalls more often than not, the more she evolves past them the more realistic her music becomes. Take for instance the first rumbling notes on the record, off 'Breathless,' in which a heavily-distorted guitar attempts to softly hum a melody but only comes up with a heavy, lead-filled vibration. It never leaves, never fades, never tries to fix itself, it only exists as a dark presence wrapped around Waxahatchee as she spills to the world her inconsequential part in the relationship, "I'm not trying to be yours" she utters with a defiant demeanor. These moments quickly become the highs of Ivy Tripp, when poetic contemplation seeks to oust the shadowy entity caging the relationship. The signaling beacon of this is 'Air,' the album's lead single, exquisitely sung sliding off the melting guitar that clashes behind her. The lyrics are placed like puzzle pieces, perfectly in their respective zones, as each line becomes an example of the songwriters talents. The obvious Pixies influence likens her to Kim Deal, substituting though paralyzing hollers for haunting coo's. 

Ivy Tripp subtly encapsulates the crumbling relationship in more ways than one. Hailing from Alabama, Waxahatchee has a compass on Country music while being able to shy into more Alternative and Folk, creating a three-fold in terms of handling the topics, where the former reflects on the light-hearted days as the latter two focus on Crutchfield's internal and external dilemmas respectively. It creates a nice pattern that excels in pacing, but derails in parts when Country does seep in, like on 'Under A Rock' and 'Grey Hair.' Both tracks are severely limited in their roots, harkening back to the acoustic set that brings little originality to the table. The feel good vibes and bright vocals are reminiscent of Natasha Bedingfield and are effective in their ability to generate nostalgic tension regardless of their trivial nature. Tracks that tend to seep into Folk are often hit or miss, see 'Blue' for the former, 'Half Moon' for the latter. These tracks, and others like them, tend to rely on catchy melodies to advance their disheartening tones, 'Blue,' along with 'La Loose' shine with tranquil progressions that benefits off Crutchfield's quiet, yet powerful vocal cues. 

As for what's hidden in that voice is another powerful testament to Ivy Tripp's encompassing feel. At some points boastful, in others numbing and sincere, Waxahatchee expresses a wide range for someone limited by basic instrumentation. What really draws the listener in however is her lyrical ability, poetically written by using copious metaphors and slight-of-hand illusions to the actual point being said, thus masking the feelings as a way to deflect any direct contact. There are times though when the notes become redundant, but just as much as they invoke a curiosity developing in the listener to find Crutchfield's true role in her developing dilemma. 'Less Than' is a great example, saturated in weighty quotes, the chorus standing tall, as Waxahatchee wails "you're less than me, I am nothing" as frantic drums and nimble hi-hats escalate in the background. 'Poison's' hook provides another insightful tidbit, "travel the world ivy tripping, with no spotlight" she sings, reflecting on her significant others' careless passages in life. The conflicts carrying her through Ivy Tripp come to a mournful, yet anticipated ending as the lead officially departs from the relationship on the anthemic 'Bonfire,' which ends with "I say go ahead" followed by the return of the distorted guitar wails and supple coo's.

Ivy Tripp is a classic tale of one's hinderance to endure monogamy while suffering the inability to escape it. There's moments of reflections, internal and external, that evoke a sincere story one can't help but feel is true. Any moment here not worth the time does so strictly based off a lacking in sonic attraction or creative complacency, a more expanded template would have provided even a broader range of emotions for Waxahatchee to tackle, but regardless Ivy Tripp still lands itself as an improvement over her previous release Cerulean Salt, which suffered from a more narrow-minded focus production-wise. Where she's left us off isn't reassuring or positive, but merely hope that absconding this perennial deflator will resolve both parties powerlessness at moving forward. The relationship trope has been played out to death, and that still will toss negatives Ivy Tripp's way, but Waxahatchee's forced perspective and personal touch, from mental anguish to wistful memories to diverging paths, make this relationship melodrama a story worth engulfing yourself in.

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