When you first encounter a record that sounds like it’s from a certain era you’re confronted with a horrible problem. Your first reaction is to compare the record to other records from that time which is pretty much a death sentence because if you’re talking about records from 20 years ago you’re only going to remember the ones that have lasted the ages, the ones that are still in the public consciousness after all this time. The classics. This is a little process I like to call “Death By Ambitious Comparison”. Such were the problems I faced when I first listened to Waxahatchee’s third record Ivy Tripp. So how did it go?
Katie Crutchfield’s new Waxahatchee album Ivy Tripp is an album full of strong, varied tracks, an engaging listen that will leave you wanting more.
First things first, this album won’t be our generations Jagged Little Pill, although after first hearing Under A Rock I was hoping it would be, so where does that leave us? It leaves us with an album that shows great promise but never really takes off. There are elements of the record that are engaging and that I really enjoy but overall it left me wanting more. Which might sound desirable but sadly it’s the ‘want’ of an unsatisfied lover, the ‘want’ of someone that can hear in his head an album that could have been. There are a few half-baked ideas and some songs that just meander off into obscurity; songs where you have to listen to it three times to make sure you actually heard it because they’re so instantly forgettable. When it shines it really shines but sometimes you do find yourself wondering around in the darkness, bored and alone.
Tonally it’s got the elements right; clean guitars are slightly dipped in chorus, overdriven guitars are crunchy and warm and the bass is toppy and high in the mix. The highlight of the record for me is definitely Poison. The song is punchy and direct, beautiful harmonies sitting over a great full guitar sound. It’s kind of like if Alanis Morrisette fronted Meloncholy and the Infinite Sadness era Pumpkins. I just wish there was more of this across the record. Under A Rock is another obvious standout and I think it is once again that Morisette / Pumpkins combo of the beautiful harmonies and the overdriven guitars that really draws me in. Stale By Noon is definitely one example of a half-baked attempt. It feels lacking in musical substance which is funny because Blue, which offers up less tonal variety and less structural diversity, feels like a more complete and engaging experience.
Air and < really lift the latter half of the album along with the cute love ballad Summer Of Love. The obligatory piano ballad Half Moon is a wonderful tonal shift and really rounds off the album well. It’s just a pity that’s not where the album ends and I honestly feel that if it was where the album ended my review would overall be a whole lot more positive. But sadly this record is bookended by two superfluous tracks in Breathless and Bonfire, both which meander along without any real intent and if listening to the record from beginning to end like I did a few times, leaves you feeling empty and disappointed.
This record is another example of what I’ve dubbed as “Dustin’s Theory Of Musical Cyclicality”. This theory clearly and beyond any shadow of a doubt proves that styles and influences cycle around in periods of about 15-20 years in so much as the music that was in your consciousness in your years up until the age of 10 will be the music that you end up making. This explains now why 5 or 6 years ago we were spending all our time watching synth bands and Joy Division rip offs (80’s throwbacks) and now we’re dealing with more flanno, distorted guitars and nose rings (90’s throwbacks). I mention this not to push my musical theories (although I am right) but to act as a warning to all. Nu Metal is coming. The early 00’s obsession with rap metal, backwards baseball caps, chain wallets and bands that spelt their names with letters reversed are just around the corner and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Grab a copy of Ivy Tripp and cherish it because in five years it’s going to be a barren musical landscape, everything will be deliberately misspelled and we’ll be worshipping at the altar of down-tuned guitars.
Ivy Tripp is an album that shows great promise but sadly doesn’t deliver on the full product. That being said what I heard and liked, I liked enough to safely say I’m looking forward to her tour here in a couple of months. Taking the shining moments and creating your own little hand-picked EP from the record is a great way to listen to the record, consciously leaving out the more dull moments and focusing on where the record excels. Alternatively you can listen to the record in full and run the risk of finding yourself as an unsatisfied listener running off to the bathroom while Ivy Tripp is asleep and secretly listening to L7 and Hole until you’ve reached your shameful musical climax.