Katie Crutchfield’s Waxahatchee project has grown from the home recordings of a promising young singer/songwriter to the full-bodied sound we hear on Ivy Tripp. Over a river of fuzz and organ drone, Crutchfield sings more warmly and confidently than ever on opener “Breathless.” Lyrically she can be oblique on songs like “Poison” (“Your birthday party tongue dripping/You'll summarize/Travel the world ivy tripping”), but the scenes she paints are evocative nonetheless. She pushes her sound further into brightly hued Pavement-style indie rock on tracks like “Under a Rock” and ’80s college rock on “The Dirt” while expanding it with a simple electronic beat and catchy backup vocals on “La Loose.” But some of the most stirring moments on Ivy Tripp are its sparest, as she turns staring at the ceiling midday and turning over love and life choices into Ivy Tripp’s best track, “Stale By Noon,” singing over a simple organ lick. I wasn’t sold when I heard her last album, Cerulean Salt, but Ivy Tripp feels whittled down to perfection. It’s an impressive songwriting showcase for Crutchfield and a significant leap forward.
Kelela – “A Message” video
L.A. electro-soul singer Kelela put out a mesmerizing mixtape in 2013 called Cut 4 Me that ended up on many year-end lists. Now not only is Cut 4 Me getting a physical release (due April 7 on Fade to Mind), she’s announced a new EP called HALLUCINOGEN, out May 5, as well as an official debut album in the fall. HALLUCINOGEN is produced by Arca, who you may recall also co-produced Bjork’s Vulnicura and FKA Twigs' LP1, and whose otherworldly stamp can be heard on “A Message,” on which Kelela sounds like a bizzaro world Janet Jackson, navigating romantic complications amid a jagged landscape of icy electronics and sudden space. “A Message’s” Japanese animation-style video is directed by Daniel Sannwald. HALLUCINOGEN also includes “The High,” a track she unveiled last year.
Kelela – “The High” [Prod. by Gifted & Blessed]
We’re nuts about L.A.-based underground R&B songstress Kelela around these parts. Her debut mixtape, CUT 4 ME, was an all-around highlight of last year’s releases, featuring Kelela’s silky vocals and ace production work by a number of L.A. underground artists. Well she’s got a couple of tour dates announced, including an April 2 show at The Echo (tickets on sale Thursday at noon), and a new song with “The High,” produced by Gifted & Blessed. “I’d do anything for the high,” she sings passionately, breaking out her cocoon of chill without losing an ounce of cool. Great stuff.
So Many Wizards – “Daydream” video
An L.A. band who’ve been bouncing around for a while and keep getting better and better, So Many Wizards latest songs have a cool, mysterious air to them without sacrificing the songwriting intricacies they debuted early on. “Daydream” lives up to its name musically, floating pensively along like a cloud, while its video is cute yet slightly nightmarish, staring frontman Nima Kazerouni’s grandmother alongside a lot of pretty young things with scary eyes. They’re at The Echoplex Sunday night with SISU, Tennis System, Heaven and Nightmare Air for Part Time Punks’ My Bloody Valentine night, you besta be there!
Through my Weekly Roundup series every Thursday (returning in 2014), I listen to a lot of stuff from California-based artists. Here’s a list of 40 great albums that were made by artists based in this great state. There were lots more, so just consider this my own personal list, and let me know if there’s anything I missed!
Epically beautiful seafaring pop from the dude formerly of The Mallard.
The cute electro-pop duo get dancier with freestyle sounds on their second album.
Just about everyone could agree on “Get Lucky” and “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” but there were lots of other great singles and album cuts released this year. Here are 21 you can download from Amoeba.com right now. Pretty sure these could just top out a 120-minute cassette tape, if my high school calculations are correct. Check out my top 50 albums list, too!
Kurt Vile – “KV Crimes”
Kurt Vile's Wakin on a Pretty Daze is a great, melodically hazy stoner-rock record, but "KV Crimes" hits hard, like a song Tom Petty would kick out in five minutes and decide he was too stoned when he wrote it and leave it on the cutting-room floor for some bullshit like "Free Fallin'." Kurt Vile is like our more enlightened Petty, one who knows that off-the-cuff tracks can be the best.
From the album Wakin on a Pretty Daze
Savages – “I Am Here”