According to Katie Crutchfield, her last album under the Waxahatchee name, Cerulean Salt, was about growing up. By extension then is her new record Ivy Tripp about what happens after a quarter life crisis? The short answer is: sort of, although in the loosest of terms. Somehow without ever being too grand or overambitious Ivy Tripp becomes about nothing less than life itself.
The sheer scope of Crutchfield’s vision is equal parts humbling and awe-inspiring. The tracks on Ivy Tripp adopt and then discard styles at lightning pace: the fuzz-drenched power of the album’s first quarter eventually gives way to an innocent, understated series of near-lullabies, before shifting back to a place somewhere in-between.
Best of all, at no point does this genre-inventiveness feel tired or forced: Crutchfield’s emotional targets are immediately recognizable, and the record’s sense of damaged hope ties the myriad of styles together. Tracks like the grungy Under A Rock and the subtle Stale By Noon might be tonally poles apart, but they are united by Crutchfield’s wit, intelligence and fire.
Although her lyrics might be pained and personal, it would be reductive to call Ivy Tripp a breakup album. In truth it is a breathtaking examination of the forces that make life both difficult and ecstatic. The rollicking The Dirt for example, is a euphoric exploration of the natural world, love and pain that never feels like anything else but an anthem dedicated to the very act of being alive.
The album bursts with standout tracks, but pulling apart individual songs is akin to picking the petals off a flower. Although Summer of Love, La Loose and Stay By Noon are all incredible, determined ballads in their own right, to examine them individually is to ruin the cohesive sense of beauty that Ivy Tripp develops. Songs like the heartfelt, fragile Half Moon brush up against fiery, near-nightmarish howls like Bonfire, and the close proximity of styles serves to bolster Crutchfield’s innocence with experience, and vice versa.
Ivy Tripp is a celebration of life. It is an album with a certain darkness, but one that ultimately reminds us of the two simple choices we face after we confront the idea that life is meaningless: we either give up, or we keep going. Ivy Tripp is the sound of an artist wholly embracing the latter choice, making music that throbs with a quiet, intense hope all of its own.