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Staff pick First Play: Waxahatchee, Ivy Tripp

Holly Gordon

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If you find yourself bopping along to the songs on Ivy Tripp one minute, then holding back tears the next, don’t be alarmed: that is exactly what’s happening inside this beautiful new record from Waxahatchee, otherwise known as Alabama-born Katie Crutchfield.

Crutchfield grew up in Birmingham’s underground punk scene, and sang in pop-punk band P.S. Eliot with her sister, Allison (now in Swearin'). P.S. Eliot disbanded in 2011, and since then Crutchfield has been making stark, confessional songs under the name Waxahatchee that harken to her punk days — blending distortion and drumming flairs that tie her past and present self together perfectly. She’s not leaving her feminist punk roots behind; she’s finding those roots a new voice.

On Ivy Tripp, her third full-length as Waxahatchee and first release on major indie label Merge Records, Crutchfield stays true to her DIY background: the album was recorded and engineered by Wherever Audio's Kyle Gilbride in Crutchfield's Long Island home, with drums recorded in the gym of a local elementary school. On the track "Summer of Love," you can hear a dog barking in the background as the vocals and instruments fade out.

Album opener "Breathless" starts us off with the essentials: Crutchfield’s steady, strong vocals sound out over distorted keys, singing, "You look at me like I’m a rose/ Singing a song that you don’t know."

There’s a glimmer of hope in that down-note of an opener, and the music on Ivy Trippactually hits uplifting levels, with loops and drums that keep you afloat. But Crutchfield’s lyrics hold steady in their heft, tethering you to earth, ripping your heart out just as you’re hitting that sweet melodic spot.

Case in heart-breaking point: the first single, "Air," with a guitar riff and drum line that’ll have you hitting repeat before you’ve realized three minutes have gone by. Thirty seconds in, the drumming intensifies, and by the time we’re halfway through, "Air" becomes a marching-band anthem for your emotions. But over that rhythmic beat come lines like "I left you out like a carton of milk/ you were quick to query me, but I wanted you still." The drumming becomes more immediate, and Crutchfield sings, "You were patiently giving me every answer, as I roamed free."

On Ivy Tripp, Crutchfield asks the questions that sit and fester in our hearts. Where are we going? With whom are we going? And how do we carry ourselves confidently through it all?

"I think a running theme [of Ivy Tripp] is steadying yourself on shaky ground and reminding yourself that you have control in situations that seem overwhelming, or just being cognizant in moments of deep confusion or sadness, and learning to really feel emotions and to grow from that," said Crutchfield in a press release.

In a year that brought us the thrilling Sleater-Kinney reunion album, No Cities to Love, Waxahatchee’s Ivy Tripp is a quieter but equally strong chapter in the riot for voice. Crutchfield is getting older, maybe wiser. But she is not giving in.

Ivy Tripp will be released April 7. Pre-order through iTunes.