Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ivy Tripp, by Waxahatchee (Album of the Week)

Waxahatchee’s new album, Ivy Tripp, is ethereal, interesting, self-confident and masterful.  There’s a lot to like here, and a few things to love.  What it isn’t, though, is edited.  It’s a slacker album, created by Katie Crutchfield, an artist with a boat load of talent but not enough rigor or ambition to make something brilliant.  She plays around with sounds like a bored sculptor messing around with some Legos. 

Robin cuts Waxahatchee a bit more slack than I do, and appreciates the amateur side of it.  It might be a difference in our personalities - she hears a dog barking in the background of a song and wonders whose it is, and I wonder what in the hell a dog is doing barking in the background of an album I actually paid for.  

The first song starts with an annoying buzzing organ sound that continues through the whole thing.  It comes off as kind of a “screw you” to the listener (or at least this one), and, in the lyrics, she twice tells us that she’s not giving us her all:

You take what you want
You wear it out
I'm not trying to be a rose
 . . .
You take what you want
You call me back
I'm not trying to be yours
You indulge me
I indulge you
But I'm not trying to have it all

Mix in a buzzing organ, and you get the sense that the artist is warning the listener that she’s not fully committed to creating an amazing album.  She’s more about slouching toward someplace cool.

Which is fine, I suppose.  With some exceptions, the album sounds great, and it covers a good range of styles, from slick guitar-driven pop to a piano song that could have been pulled off a Carole King album.  The closing track, “Bonfire”, screws around with more annoying crunchy guitar sounds for 38 seconds before settling into a pristine bass riff-based anthem that could have been done by Weezer.

She does rouse herself to create some really good music paired with vague lyrics sung with one of the best voices around.   Her voice is a joy.  Raspy, growly, and sweet, kind of like the Cranberries’ Dolores O'Riordan with a faint southern twang replacing the Irish lilt.

By most measures, an album packed with really good music and a wonderful voice performing them ought to have me speaking in superlatives, but there’s something wasted here.  It’s not just that the buzzing sound on the opening track or the unnecessary surf sounds and dog barking on “Summer of Love”, though those are regrettable immature lapses of judgment, along with a couple other missed attempts at studio “magic”.

I could joyfully overlook the lapses if there were more substance here.  When Katie Crutchfield has a baby, or loses a loved one, or gets politicized, or finds religion, or whatever, she has the musical talent to create something that is really fantastic.  Right now, though, she’s just making some good music.  Even she seems to realize that she’s kind of drifting – in “The Dirt”, she sings:

Long since I was as empty as a young child
Hope lying in prospect

I wasted my boredom hastily
I'm a basement brimming with nothing great

Mix her talent with something she’s passionate about, and she’s going to be amazing.  She’s just not there yet.

Next Up:  Second Hand Heart, by Dwight Yoakam

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