vocalist

Youthful experiences aren’t always conducive to smooth pop ballads, and no one knows that better than vocalist Katie Crutchfield, who goes by the moniker “Waxahatchee.”

Waxahatchee released her third full-length album, “Ivy Tripp,” on Tuesday. Over the course of 13 tracks, Crutchfield looks introspectively at herself and the world around her. 

Crutchfield’s first two full-length albums, “American Weekend” and “Cerulean Salt,” were notable for their raw honesty. “Ivy Tripp” is different. 

“Ivy Tripp” isn’t solely confessional — it’s an album that marks her journey out of the bedroom, where she recorded “American Weekend,” and into new musical territory. She has officially crossed the angsty, solo alt-rock boundary that made her famous in 2012 and has adopted a thoughtful, heavier and vulnerable lo-fi sound.

Waxahatchee sounds like a darker version of Courtney Barnett or Angel Olsen. Existential angst still laces the album’s catchy pop tunes and slower ballads. The entire work carries the apprehension of a person grasping for something just out of reach. 

The first track, “Breathless,” begins with a fuzzy synthesizer. In the song, she sings, “You see me how I wish I was / But I’m not trying to be seen.” These blunt confessions, carried over static synthesizers and a light chorus of “oohs” and “la la las,” are reminiscent of her old material but promise something new.

“Breathless” builds suspense before the album drops into a sequence of upbeat pop tracks and thoughtful ballads. Energetic songs, such as “Under A Rock,” “Poison” and “The Dirt,” were written for long summer days. The album’s more energetic songs feel crafted for a crowd of festival-goers drinking beer and dancing. 

But the album is most powerful when Crutchfield slows down. The fifth track, “Stale By Noon,” is the album’s strongest. The song relies on Crutchfield’s soft yet gripping vocals. She confesses, “I can imitate some kind of love / Or I could see it for what it is and stop kidding myself / We are not that alike.” Her blunt truths, sung in falsetto and combined with gentle backing, are haunting. 

Although the album goes through a mix of styles, from pop hits to ballads, the last track, “Bonfire,” brings it back to the fuzzy synthesizers. By the end, the album feels as though Crutchfield told a 40-minute story that’s reached its gripping conclusion.

“Ivy Tripp” isn’t a perfect album, but it feels like Crutchfield didn’t intend for it to be. The songs occasionally blend together, and Crutchfield at times seems so lost in her own world that the music loses its passion. But the variation of song styles and the captivating songstress who wrote them keep it from ever becoming a boring effort. 

“Ivy Tripp” is Waxahatchee’s strongest work so far, carrying the feeling that something bigger waits on the horizon. She sings, “You ask a lot, she said go ahead / He said go ahead / I say go ahead,” just before a minute musical break that ends the album. Hopefully, these words turn out to be prophetic — Waxahatchee has yet to disappoint.

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

The music portion of South By Southwest is the most unpredictable aspect of the festival. Unlike traditional music festivals such as Austin City Limits or Fun Fun Fun Fest, where schedules are solidified months in advance and seldom change, the schedule given out by SXSW is more of a general guide. There’s no telling when and where Kanye West, Lady Gaga or De La Soul might show up, and half the fun of the music festival is being in the right place at the right time when a surprise guest appears. 

This year’s festival had its share of surprise performances and hyper-exclusive sets that SXSW has become known for in recent years. For the lucky Samsung Galaxy owners and winners of a ticket lottery, Kanye West performed with Jay-Z at Austin Music Hall. Those who made it to The Mobile Movement showcase caught a glimpse of Lady Gaga running the light show. 

The Daily Texan made a list of the best shows of each day of SXSW.


Monday

AT&T Interactive Music Showcase at The Mobile Movement

Arguably one of the most rumor-filled nights of SXSW, AT&T hosted DJ Shadow, Machinedrum and Reggie Watts. The venue featured several nights of music in the interactive warehouse on Cesar Chavez Street, all leading up to Monday’s rumors of a secret Lady Gaga or Kanye performance, both of which were just that: infamous SXSW rumors. The lineup kicked off with the always innovative comedian-musician Reggie Watts beat boxing his way through a lively set, leaving room for one-liners between each song. DJ Travis Stewart, performing under the name Machinedrum, followed Watts in what felt like the longest but most cohesive set at SXSW as Twitter was flooded with pictures of Lady Gaga in the building. The rumors were dissuaded altogether just before DJ Shadow’s energetic set, leaving the audience dancing through an impressively artistic, beat-heavy performance.  

 

Tuesday

Pitchfork Show No Mercy Showcase at Mohawk

Mohawk hosted a showcase that displayed the full potential of what SXSW can be. Highlights included the slow-churning Indian from Chicago and Los Angeles’ Youth Code, a dark electronic act that put on a highly energetic set that resembled a much better version of Sleigh Bells. The best of the night were Brooklyn’s Sannhet, who won over a small crowd with striking visuals and grand and sweeping instrumental black metal, and Texas’s own Power Trip, who delivered the most intense set of the entire week. Vocalist Riley Gale opened the set by announcing that he had just found out a close friend passed away, but that the band was just going to play through it and try not to think about it and, in turn, delivered an extremely heavy and emotional set that easily had the most energetic pit that’s taken place at an official showcase. 

 

Wednesday

Kanye West and Jay-Z at Austin Music Hall

The first joint performance in two years from rap’s biggest stars made for one of the biggest sets of the week, but, because of poor planning, it was almost a disaster. Samsung, which put on the show, gave out wristbands that “guaranteed entry” to more people than the venue could hold. Hundreds outside left in anger when the fire marshal announced a “one in, one out” policy before half of the people in line with wristbands had entered. Kanye and Jay-Z essentially played greatest hits sets. At one point, each stood on large installations on opposite sides of the venue and went back and forth, playing hits such as “Runaway” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.” The two reunited onstage together at the end for fan favorites such as “Gold Digger” before launching into “Niggas In Paris” three times in a row. The fans that made it in were treated to an incredible, rare show from Kanye and Jay-Z. 

 

Thursday

Future Islands at the 4AD Showcase at Cheer Up Charlie’s

Like most bands at SXSW, Future Islands played several sets throughout the week. Their show as part of 4AD’s showcase at Cheer Up Charlie’s was their last for this year’s festival, and lead singer Sam Herring announced that it would be their “most punk-rock fucking set” yet. This prompted the audience at Cheer Up Charlie’s to launch into a thrashing mosh-pit that lasted the entirety of the performance. Herring’s on stage energy was not only matched, but maybe even topped, by the vivacious crowd. The band played songs off of early albums as well as their newly released single, “Seasons (Waiting On You).” Future Islands’ set at Cheer Up Charlie’s was quite possibly their best set of the entire festival.

 

 

Friday

Pitchfork Official Showcase at Central Presbyterian Church

Friday at SXSW hosted one of the biggest showcases in the world of independent music. Pitchfork’s 2014 SXSW showcase at Central Presbyterian Church started with an up and down set from synth rockers EMA. Angel Olsen followed, delivering a powerful performance with songs off of her newly acclaimed album, Burn Your Fire for no Witness. The surprise of the night was a wonderful set from Hundred Waters, combining beats and synth lines with piano and soaring vocals from frontwoman Nicole Miglis. The electronic beats and raw emotion of Mas Ysa and the ethereal textures of Forest Swords complimented each other well, setting the stage for an impactful set from Sun Kil Moon frontman, Mark Kozelek. The ringing guitars of Real Estate closed out the night as they combined hits from their previous works as well as tracks from their newly released Atlas.

 

Saturday

Phantogram at the Guitar Center Rooftop Sessions

Phantogram’s Saturday rooftop jam session was easily one of the most authentic acts of all the official SXSW showcases, but due to some technical difficulties and a lack of audience participation, it was also vastly underappreciated. The duo owned the stage with a killer vocal presence, despite a microphone malfunction midway through their set, after which vocalist Sarah Barthel yelled offstage, “I guess we’ll just take care of it, all by ourselves.” The noticeable lack of energy from the audience could be blamed on the performance being taped for television. The looming TV cameras and restrictive boundaries around the stage made any sort of excitement, outside of an occasional cheer, almost impossible. Regardless, Phantogram delivered with a powerful, punchy set heard across the rooftops of downtown Austin.   

For the rest of the Daily Texan’s SXSW music review, see the Daily Texan Life & Arts website.

Friday | Anarchy Championship Wrestling

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Check out Daily Texan Multimedia's video recap of Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012.

An army of bandana-covered fans marched through dust-covered Auditorium Shores for the offbeat Fun Fun Fun Fest to see the 150 artists that performed over the three-day period. Headliners included Run DMC, who reunited solely for the festival, Public Image Ltd., fronted by ex-Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten, and Scandinavian punk bands Turbonegro from Norway and recently reunited Refused from Sweden. Running from noon to 10 p.m. each night, artists played four stages — Black, Blue, Orange and Yellow — separated by genre (metal, rap/techno, rock and comedy, respectively.) Each stage was broken into two separate stages to streamline artist traffic, minimizing breaks between music to merely five minutes.

FRIDAY:

Run DMC:

The two legendary MCs reunited under the Run DMC moniker for the first time in 10 years to close out the orange stage Friday night. Performing classic such as “It’s Tricky” and “King of Rock,” the hip-hop duo displayed the fast-paced, in-your-face style of rapping that they pioneered almost 30 years ago. It was an emotional comeback, with a moment of silence held for DJ Jam Master Jay, whose murder prompted the group to disband. However, in a consoling manner, two of his sons, Jason “Jam Master J’son” Mizell Jr. and T.J “Dasmatic” Mizell performed in his place. 

Converge:

The Massachusetts hardcore metal band began their set with “Concubine,” the lead track on 2001’s Jane Doe to the delight of crowd-surfing fans. The barrier between the stage and audience became indistinguishable as security fought a constant battle to keep audience members from climbing over. The mathematic polyrhythms drove the crowd into a frenzied circle pit, kicking up an impressive amount of dust into the air. After playing songs from their latest release, All We Love We Leave Behind, the band ended with “The Broken Vow,” with vocalist Jacob Bannon throwing himself into the crowd.

Santigold:

The reggae new wave singer appeared on the Orange Stage with an expertly coordinated backing band that engaged in unified dances while wearing matching costumes. Performing old hits like “L.E.S. Artistes,” from her debut album Santogold, she also focused on newer material from Master Of My Make-Believe, released earlier this year. The easily relatable lyrics sung in Santigold’s nasally treble voice over new wave music caused a dance party in front of the stage.

 

Saturday | Kreayshawn

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff


SATURDAY:

Refused:

The only other time Refused has played in Texas was in 1996, right before they broke up in 1998. The 14-year interlude proved worth the wait. Their five minute synthesized soundscape intro had the anxious crowd uttering visceral screams and starting multiple slow claps in hopes of generating enough momentum to bring the band on stage. Refused wasted no time, diving headfirst into the anthemic “The Shape of Punk to Come.” Vocalist Dennis Lyxzén’s expertly timed jumps and flamboyant performance likened him to Mick Jagger.

David Cross:

The audience at the Yellow Stage was spilling out past the edge of the tent as fans packed in to see headliner David Cross. Remembered for classic roles such as actor Dr. Tobias Fünke on Fox’s “Arrested Development,” Cross’ 35 minute comedy routine opened with a timely mention of his experience with Superstorm Sandy. “I actually saw pictures of my car floating away on Tumblr,” Cross said. “I’m rich though, so I can buy a new one.” Cross also touched on a variety of subjects, such as getting a couple’s colonic with his wife, toeing the line between funny and inappropriate the entire time.

The Head and The Heart:

Seattle based folk-pop band The Head and the Heart finished the tour for their first and very successful album on the Orange Stage. The band gave an incredbile, energetic performance, moving around from microphone to microphone. At one point, drummer Tyler Williams emerged from behind his drum kit and took a lively sprint around the stage. The band closed with hit-song “Rivers and Roads” in which violinist Charity Rose Thielen gave a soul-filled vocal solo, before leaving the stage nearing tears. The Head and the Heart’s emotional performance was a definite festival highlight.

 

Sunday | Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

SUNDAY:

La Dispute:

The post-hardcore band from Grand Rapids, Michigan performed a high-energy 40-minute set at the Black Stage. Beginning with two songs off their 2008 release, Somewhere At the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair, the band shifted gears and played six songs from Wildlife, released last year. La Dispute’s style was evident in their performance of “A Letter,” a slower song with spoken-word vocals influenced by author Vladimir Nabokov. Vocalist Jordan Dreyer never stood still, constantly running in circles or jogging in place. During the closing song, “King Park,” fans disregarded security and jumped over the barrier, trying to get on stage before they were forcibly pulled down.

Givers:

Singer Tiffany Lamson fronted the relatively new indie pop band behind a miniature drum set, adding additional percussion when she wasn’t playing ukulele. Reminiscent of Norah Jones, her powerful vocals maintained a vague feeling of solidarity over the band’s somewhat chaotic and noisy soundscapes. The pinnacle of their performance was their single “Meantime,” showcasing a taste for interesting rhythms, playing on the upbeat and shimmering keyboard lines.

 

Fun Fun Fun Fest 2012 from The Daily Texan on Vimeo.

Printed on Monday, November 5, 2012 as: Festival heavy on rock, rap, laughs

A band’s true challenge lies in how they manage to remain relevant.

This is what separates the good from the bad — if one can captivate rather than remain stagnant, the results are often successful. Although both groups have been around for some time, Ohio blues-rock duo The Black Keys and Pennsylvania hip-hop collective The Roots have continued to challenge contemporaries in their respective fields.

Following 2010’s Brothers, The Black Keys present El Camino, a combination of polished production from producer Danger Mouse, and hard-driving guitar and drums. Unlike its predecessor, El Camino shows the band exchanging their soulful, moody beginnings for something more upbeat and lively. For example, “Dead and Gone” opens with pounding bass drum, and reverberating Beach Boys surf guitar. Along with the gospel choir-like claps and background vocals, “Dead and Gone” is vibrant with beach-y energy and vigor.

“Run Right Back” struts with a sexiness that features distorted, ZZ Top riffs and unrelenting, pulsating drums. “Hell of A Season” is irresistible. It punches with a subtle punk rock aggressiveness: Vocalist Dan Auerbach fearlessly croons over Patrick Carney’s thrashing drums.

El Camino embodies the bigger-than-life sound The Black Keys have always been known for. The melodic choruses accompany the duo’s gritty abrasiveness, allowing for moments of pure sweetness from unholy racket. The group confidently strides with simplified musicianship, making each song memorable for their kooky hooks.

Although the band’s more refined sound may seem to take away from the rough-edged dirtiness of Brothers, El Camino comes off as the band’s most sensual and attractive album yet.

Whereas The Black Keys’ power relies on the unity between cacophonous guitar and drums, The Roots’ mixture of soulful, hip hop-driven arrangements and insightful lyrical content is the definitive component of one of hip-hop’s most intriguing groups.

Taking a break from providing funky interludes on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” The Roots return with their 13th album, Undun. They have always prided themselves on being at the forefront of eclecticism. From the Radiohead-sampled “Atonement,” to the social commentary that is “How I Got Over,” The Roots find pleasure in pushing the boundaries of the vast collection of genres their music encompasses. Undun continues in a similar path as its predecessors, but shows the band’s growth as captivating storytellers.

Opener “Dun” foreshadows the crescendoing brilliance of the album. Spacey synths segue into “Sleep,” a brief, psychedelic-funk odyssey that transitions into the laid-back “Kool On.” Featuring a call and response between Jimi Hendrix riffs and gospel church organs, “Kool On” swaggers with guest appearances from Greg Porn and Truck North.

The uplifting “The Other Side” showcases vocalist Tariq Trotter’s distinctive vocal delivery. Alongside the militancy of Public Enemy’s Chuck D and the insightful narratives of Mos Def, Trotter’s in-your-face delivery compliments the fluidity of the musical arrangements backing him. “Step in my arena let me show y’all who the highness is,” Trotter confidently proclaims, his voice revealing a discomfort with the world that surrounds him.

Undun is beautifully dark. With each song there is one giant step into the unknown, revealing feelings of loneliness, cynicism and acceptance. The production is nearly impeccable; from the piano-driven Sufjan Stevens-featuring “Redford” to the raucous free-jazz apocalypse of “Possibility,” Undun is riveting in that it shows a musical growth that is cohesive and veracious. It moves like a well-written orchestral piece, calm and serene one moment, powerful and grandiose another, leaving you mesmerized until the very end. 

Printed on Tuesday, December 6, 2011 as: Remarkable new releases captivate fans