Review: Waxahatchee

Ivy Tripp
April 9, 2015

The past few years have brought forth a wave of new voices in indie rock that are chronicling their restless twenty-something experience through a feminist lens. Although you can trace their lineage to eternal cool older sisters, such as Kim Deal, Mary Timony and Juliana Hatfield, they’re still making their own mark, influenced by and influencing each other.

Leading the ever-growing pack are Philadelphia-based sisters Katie and Allison Crutchfield. The Alabama-raised twins started playing music together when they were fifteen, most notably in P.S Eliot before splitting ways in 2011 to purse their own projects, pop punk sweethearts Swearin’ (Allison) and somewhat-solo project Waxahatchee (Katie).

Waxahatchee’s first album, 2012’s American Weekend, was claustrophobically intimate, akin to listening to a friend play songs down a crackling telephone line. 2013’s Cerulean Salt deservingly topped countless end of year lists. A confident second album, it solidified Crutchfield’s place as a sharp singer-songwriter.

The subsequent move to Merge Records was a natural fit for Waxahatchee, from the shared DIY roots to creating consistently smart outsider-looking-in music.

In contrast to previous releases, Waxahatchee’s third album, Ivy Tripp, is more reserved. A lo-fi buzz, heady and slow, bookends the album. Breathless is a sparse start, with words stretched out and vocals doubled, then eventually looped, bouncing off each other, before fading into the low hum.

The mood is quickly broken by Under A Rock, which occupies the same space as Coast to Coast from Cerulean Salt – a pop punk-leaning, wind-the-windows down sing-along.

The sad-eyed Stale By Noon is hypnotic, at once hopeful and defeated (“I get lost looking up”). The Dirt starts off with serious Vaselines vibes but the sly guitar line gives it a blurry country feel, with Crutchfield’s almost deadpan delivery coming off sounding like Star-era Tanya Donelly. Wedged between more introspective songs, it provides a needed emotional lift, a pause.

There’s a sleepiness to Blue, Crutchfield singing each line with a nonchalant serenity, while ‘Summer Of Love is a ballad waiting to be covered in bedrooms (“the summer of love is a photo of us”).

Quieter than Cerulean Salt, Ivy Tripp feels more confident and focused. A drum machine underpins La Loose, the brightest pop song on the album. “I know I feel more than you do,” sings Crutchfield, hitting high notes miles above the steady synth line, “I selfishly want you here to stick to.” Devastating but simple.

Ivy Tripp is out now via Merge Records. Waxahatchee is set to tour Sydney and Melbourne this July.

Listen: Waxahatchee – Air