With her 2013 sophomore album Cerulean Salt, singer/songwriter Katie Crutchfield's solo vehicle Waxahatchee came into its own, filtering her roots in energetic punk into a set of immediately resonating songs that were equally introspective and nakedly honest. The album caught on in a huge way, with the full-band version of Waxahatchee touring internationally for the next year or so, meeting a new and growing fan base with dozens of performances. Third album Ivy Tripp sounds like the reflections of an artist coming fresh from the extreme highs and lows of accelerated personal and musical growth, with tighter performances, more direct sentiments, and an undeniable confidence that comes through even when Crutchfield is addressing aimlessness and floundering uncertainty. The album title itself a phrase Crutchfield created and referred to in interviews as "a term I made up for directionless-ness, specifically of the twenty-something, thirty-something, forty-something of today, lacking regard for the complaisant life path of our parents and grandparents." The lost, adrift feeling that gave Ivy Tripp its name clashes with the striding boldness of the songs within. Early on, Waxahatchee was pegged as '90s revivalism by many critics, and while that critique is reductive overall of Crutchfield's nuanced songs, there are glimpses of hazy '90s alt-rock glory on jangly rockers like "Under a Rock" or the loping pop harmonies of "Poison." On these punky tracks the band evokes the same distorted guitar hookiness as the Lemonheads, Belly, or Throwing Muses did in their prime. When things get less furious, as on the electric piano-driven "Stale by Noon," Crutchfield's lyrical core gets more space to shine from her always honest and sometimes dark-hearted musings. Ivy Tripp accomplishes the rare feat of communicating feelings that are searching and gentle without being the least bit fragile. Born of D.I.Y. punk culture, Waxahatchee's fuzzy, introspective pop stands out due to the fearless honesty of the songs, and Crutchfield's refusal to dumb down her emotional currents or underestimate her audience. Ivy Tripp is another excellent and remarkably bold chapter of this exciting, unflinching sound.
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Review by Fred Thomas