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Review: Singer stretches her limits

This is the first impression Waxahatchee’s “Ivy Tripp” gives poor unsuspecting night owls. It might be best to wait until daytime to listen to the band’s third release.

“Breathless” doesn’t improve much musically. It’s about as good as an untrained child experimenting with the effects on a keyboard. The atonal music is redeemed only by Katie Crutchfield’s mellow vocals. Her light and airy harmonies only go so far. For listeners who prefer their music to sound like, well, music, expect to skip this track often.

“Under a Rock” has a much better feel that flawlessly transitions into “Poison” with a simple build-up on the cymbal. From the second track on, Crutchfield’s vocals dominate, despite her lack of power and technique.

A familiar ’90s ambience present throughout the entire album is sure to take those who remember the end of the 20th century back.

If the thought of having a track with the “less than” symbol as the title is unpleasant, look for a different indie rock album. Track nine, “<,” is an easy-going track with a nice groove.

But like the rest of the album, it gets redundant and somewhat boring disappointingly quick. It’s hard to respect the musicianship of the instrumentalists when there is nothing complex presented to prove themselves to the listeners.

Another tiresome aspect of the album is Crutchfield’s singing. Her voice is pleasant to listen to, but her range is extremely limited. Her high harmonies are nice when paired with the anticlimactic melodies but fall short when left to stand alone. Combined with the repeated lyrics “You’re less than me/I am nothing” of track nine, it gets old very swiftly.

By the 11th track, there is an unmistakable feeling that these songs have been played before in some coming-of-age teen movie made two decades ago. “Summer of Love” has the strongest effect, with the light-hearted acoustic guitar reminiscent of that in Sixpence None the Richer’s 1998 hit “Kiss Me.”

Though the music is enjoyable, “Ivy Tripp” lacks the originality this sound had prior to the new millennium. There is little to distinguish Crutchfield’s musical style from that of every other pop rock artist from the post-grunge era.

To her credit, each song is different from the others on the track list, unlike most ‘90s bands. This quality improves the overall listening experience immensely.

Despite the poor first impression, the latest Waxahatchee record ends strong with the final track “Bonfire.” With a piercing intro far less irritating than that of the first, the song breaks into a groovy bass riff that grabs your attention and makes you want to move your hips to the beat.

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It’s a nice change to hear instruments played in a key compatible with Crutchfield’s limited but charming range.

The best way to describe “Ivy Tripp” would be to insert it into a road trip scenario. It definitely isn’t a disc you would take with you for the times you’re in the middle of nowhere with no radio stations to be found.

It is, however, the kind of album that catches enough of your attention when it comes on the radio that you’d choose not to change the station. Though there’s nothing particularly special about it, it’s a record worth buying if you’re into that sort of thing.

Skylar Griego is a culture reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @DailyLobo.

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