There seems a sense of Allison Crutchfield coming out of the shadows with her debut album. For Crutchfield has been a name on the US indie scene for quite a while now – whether it be as the lead singer with Philadephia four-piece Swearin’ or her work with her twin sister Katie in both PS Eliot and Waxahatchee, but Tourist In This Town is the first release to bear her name. It seems apposite somehow that the album cover portrays her basked in a glow of light.
Anyone familiar with Crutchfield’s previous work will find much to love in Tourist In This Town – her voice, for one thing, is uncannily similar to Katie’s, with hints of Jenny Lewis and Best Coast‘s Bethany Cosentino thrown in. Her songs too, plow similar emotional furrows. It is, to all intents and purposes a break-up album, describing Crutchfield’s split with her band Swearin’, and with her old bandmate and boyfriend Kyle Gilbride. Just the way that Crutchfield sings on the opening track Broad Daylight, “our love is unquestionable, our love is here to die” raises the hair on the back of your neck.
The songs gathered on Tourist In This Town are less abrasive and punky than with PS Eliot or Swearin’ – there’s a lightness of touch and a sweetness running through most tracks, together with an immutable sense of sadness. She’s also an expert at penning an infectious hook: Dean’s Room is an immediate highlight, with hints of ’80s new wave in its drum-heavy introduction and a chorus of “you just want to catch me alone” that becomes almost instantly singalong.
Some of the lyrics sound like they’ve been ripped straight from a all too personal diary – the lovely Charlie is a bittersweet lament to a lost lover with lines like “We sleep in the same bed at the opposite times, and Charlie I call out your name but I still call you darling in my mind”, and Sightseeing is a beautifully fragile ballad about visiting another country while still having your ex on your mind filled with killer couplets like “I’m so narcissistic I want you to be obsessed with me” and “I can’t enjoy Paris as I can’t get away from you, you’re like a ghost trapped in my hotel room”.
It’s certainly a much more polished sound than anything Crutchfield has been involved with previously. Only the minute-long punky thrash of Marriage and the slightly discordant synth sound of Mile Away would sound out of place on prime-time radio. This smoother sound makes the emotions on the record sound even more potent though – making a line like “I keep confusing love with nostalgia” on I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California sound impossibly potent.
Despite the sadness and regret that seeps through each song, there’s a hopefulness too, a sense of resilience that everything will eventually be okay. As Crutchfield sings on the ’60s soul-pop of Expatriate, “the things you used to hate about me are all heightened now, but I love myself or I’m figuring out how”. Going by the quality of Tourist In This Town, there’ll be an awful lot more people loving Allison Crutchfield pretty soon.