Waxahatchee shows vulnerability in most recent album

Emily Gibson

Youthful experiences aren’t always conducive to smooth pop ballads, and no one knows that better than vocalist Katie Crutchfield, who goes by the moniker “Waxahatchee.”

Waxahatchee released her third full-length album, “Ivy Tripp,” on Tuesday. Over the course of 13 tracks, Crutchfield looks introspectively at herself and the world around her. 

Crutchfield’s first two full-length albums, “American Weekend” and “Cerulean Salt,” were notable for their raw honesty. “Ivy Tripp” is different. 

“Ivy Tripp” isn’t solely confessional — it’s an album that marks her journey out of the bedroom, where she recorded “American Weekend,” and into new musical territory. She has officially crossed the angsty, solo alt-rock boundary that made her famous in 2012 and has adopted a thoughtful, heavier and vulnerable lo-fi sound.

Waxahatchee sounds like a darker version of Courtney Barnett or Angel Olsen. Existential angst still laces the album’s catchy pop tunes and slower ballads. The entire work carries the apprehension of a person grasping for something just out of reach. 

The first track, “Breathless,” begins with a fuzzy synthesizer. In the song, she sings, “You see me how I wish I was / But I’m not trying to be seen.” These blunt confessions, carried over static synthesizers and a light chorus of “oohs” and “la la las,” are reminiscent of her old material but promise something new.

“Breathless” builds suspense before the album drops into a sequence of upbeat pop tracks and thoughtful ballads. Energetic songs, such as “Under A Rock,” “Poison” and “The Dirt,” were written for long summer days. The album’s more energetic songs feel crafted for a crowd of festival-goers drinking beer and dancing. 

But the album is most powerful when Crutchfield slows down. The fifth track, “Stale By Noon,” is the album’s strongest. The song relies on Crutchfield’s soft yet gripping vocals. She confesses, “I can imitate some kind of love / Or I could see it for what it is and stop kidding myself / We are not that alike.” Her blunt truths, sung in falsetto and combined with gentle backing, are haunting. 

Although the album goes through a mix of styles, from pop hits to ballads, the last track, “Bonfire,” brings it back to the fuzzy synthesizers. By the end, the album feels as though Crutchfield told a 40-minute story that’s reached its gripping conclusion.

“Ivy Tripp” isn’t a perfect album, but it feels like Crutchfield didn’t intend for it to be. The songs occasionally blend together, and Crutchfield at times seems so lost in her own world that the music loses its passion. But the variation of song styles and the captivating songstress who wrote them keep it from ever becoming a boring effort. 

“Ivy Tripp” is Waxahatchee’s strongest work so far, carrying the feeling that something bigger waits on the horizon. She sings, “You ask a lot, she said go ahead / He said go ahead / I say go ahead,” just before a minute musical break that ends the album. Hopefully, these words turn out to be prophetic — Waxahatchee has yet to disappoint.