Every week, I grow more and more convinced that the 90’s will never die. Even if the music of the era will never dominate the airwaves like it did in its heyday, personally I feel it’s a good thing that there will forever be an undercurrent that will think getting a couple of friends together to bang out something with a few simple guitar chords with a few clever lyrics over the top is a great idea. Though this gives the listener a basic idea of the DIY aesthetic of the album, it is but an oversimplification of what makes Waxahatchee’s new album Ivy Tripp such an engaging listen.
Waxahatchee first captured the attention of critics and listeners with Cerulean Salt, a charming lo-fi take on folk with a bit of a punk attitude that functioned more or less as a Katie Crutchfield solo album. With Ivy Tripp, Crutchfield keeps the lo-fi spirit alive, but for the first time Waxahatchee feels more like the effort of a full-fledged group. The band maintains a loose, low-stakes feel with much of the music, with the slightly off-time bass and off-kilter drums on “<“ providing a perfect example, or the breezy, easygoing ballad “Summer of Love”, a simple acoustic ode to a companion whose identity is revealed with a barking cameo at the end.
There are other moments where the group snaps into focus, like the mid-90’s indie rock throwback “Under a Rock”, with its bass countermelodies and drum fills lining up perfectly with the song’s big hooks. Waxahatchee also shines when it steps out of their comfort zone and explores unfamiliar territory, as in the slow groove of “Air” or the spare “Breathless”, with its simple, distorted synth melody accented by the occasional feedback-tinged guitar divebomb. Ivy Tripp effectively switches between these styles, keeping the listener’s attention throughout without ever sounding the least bit disjointed.
Ivy Tripp is an excellent step forward for Waxahatchee, as it reminds listeners of the highlights of Cerulean Salt while pushing forward into new musical directions. This time around, Waxahatchee maintains their DIY spirit, but wraps that feeling up in a package filled with big hooks that encourages repeated listens. Ivy Tripp may evoke nostalgic sentiments from a couple of decades ago, but Waxahatchee puts their own unique stamp on it that the album never sounds like a 90’s jukebox of indie rock’s greatest hits.