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Katie Crutchfield's ascent to indie stardom has been steep and unobstructed, with due reason. Under the moniker Waxahatchee, borrowed from the name of a creek near her childhood Alabama home, she has released two extraordinary records of lo-fi alternative rock that have received extensive critical praise. The second of these, 2013's Cerulean Salt, was widely hailed as one of the best albums of the year. Her success has even found mainstream outlets as well, as she supported pop-act Tegan and Sara during a 2013 summer tour. Now, having signed with Merge Records in the United States and Wichita Recordings in the UK, Crutchfield's thoughtful follow-up, Ivy Tripp, is poised to become her biggest and best breakthrough yet.

Although the first Waxahatchee record, American Weekend, was only released three years ago, the 26-year-old Crutchfield's songwriting has shown remarkable maturation. The angst and grieving of the past has been replaced by a more self-assured and reflective outlook. Ivy Tripp's first track, 'Breathless', announces this evolution boldly, with Crutchfield's soaring vocals thoughtfully analyzing an imperfect and confused relationship over a fuzzy bed of synths.

This thematic development allows Crutchfield to become more even vulnerable in her lyrics, as she repeatedly forces herself to reflect upon her often raw and visceral emotions, as well as her own flaws and mistakes. On 'La Loose', a poppy little number driven by a drum machine and filled with catchy 1960s-esque "oohs" in the background, she declares "I know that I feel more than you do/ I selfishly want you here to stick to." This kind of self-aware lyricism turns up throughout the album, serving one of the major reason's Ivy Tripp is able to surpass its predecessors in everyway.

One of the album's many highlights, 'The Dirt', features Waxahatchee at their catchiest musically and strongest lyrically. "You'll deliver a fable I could love and I'll throw it off the nearest cliff," she gleefully cheers. Punchy drums and scuzzy guitars punctuate this cheerful tell-off, creating a swirl of rich complexity to track.

'Air', the lead single, provides an excellent counterbalance to this, allowing the delicacy of Crutchfield's voice to dance beautifully with a powerful synth line, as the drums pound away and a thick guitar riff plays repeatedly throughout the background. The end result is a sonic construction that commands attention and respect for its beauty and intimacy.

Crutchfield's introspection and self-awareness have been elevated to absolutely staggering levels, allowing for an unmatched showcase of her skills as a musician. Tack on the help of her friends and sibling from the Philadelphia band Swearin', who have once again lent their instrumentals and enginnering skills, and Waxahatchee has been afforded the opportunity to release her most outstanding work yet.

Ultimately, Ivy Tripp is the best record in Crutchfield's discography, but her rise is undoubtedly continuing. Where she will plateau remains to be seen, but she is already making her mark as one of America's premier songwriters and she shows no signs of stopping.

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