Waxahatchee mastermind Katie Crutchfield knows that her voice and her hard-hitting, almost confessional lyrics are enough to drive her music.
Her 2012 debut "American Weekend" wasn't much more than that set atop a single guitar. She added a little more indie-rock instrumentation on her breakthrough "Cerulean Salt" in 2013, but not enough to distract from her angst-ridden tales of early adulthood. On her new album, "Ivy Tripp" (Merge), written mostly at her home in Holbrook, the Alabama native has figured out how to use the music to enhance her statements, make them more potent.
The swagger of the first single, "Under a Rock," feeds off the energy of the full band, driving home the point that Crutchfield knows what makes her potential boyfriend tick. "I told you twice that I know how to break inside the brick house that you built around your cranium," she taunts. "You wear it like a crown."
In "<,” the song actually sounds like it’s coming apart, guitar riffs running into each other, bits played in different tempos, as Crutchfield declares, “You’re less than me . . . I am nothing.”
Crutchfield’s lyrics are like her music, fully formed, but economical and poetic. “I left you out, like a carton of milk,” she sings in the thumping “Air,” which calls to mind a mix of Kim Deal-era Pixies and latter-day Liz Phair. “You were quick to query me, but I wanted you still.”
On the piano ballad “Half Moon,” she worries, “Our love tastes like sugar, but it pulls all the life out of me,” a line she delivers as if, for a moment, she can no longer go on.
Throughout “Ivy Tripp,” Crutchfield condenses complicated thoughts and feelings into small, hard-hitting bursts that linger long after the song ends. It’s the mark of a true artist and a near-guarantee that Waxahatchee will be one of 2015’s breakout stars.
THE GRADE A-
BOTTOM LINE Building her own world of indie rock