Review: Allison Crutchfield – ‘Tourist in This Town’
Posted: by The Editor
Allison Crutchfield’s debut solo LP Tourist In This Town continues where her last solo release, 2014’s decidedly lo-fi EP Lean In To It, left off. With Lean In To It, Crutchfield often kept her voice embedded within the fuzzy but otherwise sparse music that surrounded her, making her words the forefront of the song when it mattered the most. Songs like “You” and “Rose Knows” on that EP were the most successful at pulling off this feat, combining the warmness of lo-fi production with pristine pop hooks, but it was the intimate lyricism that Crutchfield has been honing for years (most recently in the now-defunct Swearin’) that made Lean In To It an exciting proof-of-concept leading up to the anticipated full-length release.
Two and a half years later, Crutchfield returns with her major-label debut, Tourist in This Town. The album functions as an open-diary for processing the uncertainty of breakups, specifically reflecting upon the dissolution of Swearin’ and the break-up between Crutchfield and her partner/band member Kyle Gilbride in 2015. Not only does Crutchfield deliberate upon the dissolution of these relationships but also upon the increasing feeling of alienation between herself and Philadelphia. Tourist in This Town contains both her most personal and relatable lyrics yet, questioning her sense of self in the same way as any other 20-something would after a breakup. “I should take care of me / Go out and kill some memories” she croons on the electro-soul opener “Broad Daylight”. That’s right, the latest Allison Crutchfield album takes cues from soul, unexplainably catchy surf rock (“I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California”), 80s-inspired synth ballads (“Sightseeing”), and everything in between. For the most part, Crutchfield pulls it off, wearing her myriad of influences on her sleeve and switching genres on an almost per-song basis.
Just as her sister Katie Crutchfield was criticized for Waxahatchee’s American Weekend relying on it’s low-fidelity production, the EP Lean In To It was similarly one-note. Unlike Waxahatchee’s superb follow-up Cerulean Salt, which was a natural evolution from lo-fi folk into punk-tinged confessionals, Allison Crutchfield’s major-label debut comes with some growing pains. The aforementioned “Sightseeing” is a sparse, piano-led ballad that is bogged down by distracting reverb on the piano, making it too hard to hear Crutchfield’s voice. It’s a pattern that is too common throughout Tourist In This Town, where Crutchfield’s singing is often lost within questionable decisions made during the production. “The Marriage” sounds like it could be a lost track from the Swearin’ era but is somewhat tarnished by odd vocal effects and stilted percussion. That being said, the beginning of “Expatriate” sounds just like the beginning of the classic “Be My Baby”, a similarity that has made me double take more than once (to be fair, “Expatriate” is my favorite song on the album).
That’s not to say that any of these songs are bad per se, the album definitely grew on me the more I actively listened to it. Lyrically, Tourist in This Town cements Allison’s place as a top-tier lyricist, but too often her words are lost amidst confusing production and awkward transitions throughout the album.
Recommended Tracks: “I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California”, “Dean’s Room”, “Expatriate”
You can purchase the album on the Merge Records store.
– Jordan Rasmussen