BY JENNIFER KELLY
Waxahatchee’s Cerulean Salt was one of 2013’s rawest pleasures, a flayed-open honesty framed in the barest kinds of guitar arrangements. The follow-up, Ivy Tripp, is both more substantial and less weighty, its denser arrangements cushioning but not entirely blunting Katie Crutchfield’s naked emotional appeal.
It begins in “Breathless,” a drone of organ, a buzz of feedback, Crutchfield chanting more than she’s singing, and drawing the vowels out in long, self-lacerating ooos. But it doesn’t take long before she’s surrounded by careening vocal counterparts, little fillips of keyboard, random slashes of feedback-y guitar. “I’m not trying to be seen,” she croons in her wounded wild thing cadences, and indeed, she seems to be hiding, at least partially, behind the sound.
And, yet what a joy to hear Crutchfield kicking up a racket in cuts like “Under a Rock” and “Poison,” the guitars ragged and blurred and distorted, the drums shaken to pieces by rampaging, crashing intensity. Or what about “Dirt” with its country-swaggering guitar lick, its teeth-rattling, cymbal-clashing drums and Crutchfield hushed to a husky murmur that carries, anyway, over the mayhem. It’s less revealing, maybe, but not less real.
The one that I like least is “La Loose,” built on the flimsiest, electro-bedroom rhythm and wreathed with whispery “ooh-ooh-oohs.” She sings in such kittenish, unthreatening tones, that might miss the spike in the sugar. “I feel so close to death, I will visualize a tragedy and blame you for it.” “Ooh ooh ooh” indeed.
Every once in a while you get an album that seems, definitively, to say, “This is who I am,” and Cerulean Salt was one of those. Ivy Tripp is more of a “This is what I can do,”’ album, worthy enough, and intermittently excellent, but not as shocking, not as eye-opening, not as much of a sock in the gut as the predecessor.
Download: “Dirt” “Poison”