REVIEW: Allison Crutchfield’s vagabond spirit shines on lush solo debut ‘Tourist In This Town’

Allison Crutchfield’s name is linked to some of the most influential underground punk music the aughts have produced.

As a teenager she cut her teeth in Birmingham, Alabama’s music scene, playing drums and keys alongside twin sister Katie Crutchfield (who has since garnered critical acclaim for her music penned under the moniker Waxahatchee) in bands The Ackleys, and later beloved scrappy DIY punk juggernaut p.s. eliot, which gained a cultish following before breaking up in 2011. Allison and Katie collaborated again in act Bad Banana before splitting up to focus on their own personal endeavors. Allison’s first foray as frontwoman came in Philadelphia pop punk act Swearin’, where she displayed a knack for crafting scrappy, at times politically-charged punk anthems.

Swearin’ disbanded following the break-up of Crutchfield and fellow band mate Kyle Gilbride.

The heartbreak served as fodder for Crutchfield’s excellent, yet overlooked 2014 EP Lean In To It. Crutchfield’s proper solo debut on Merge Records, Tourist In This Town, however, is destined to be heard.

Crutchfield displays a keen talent for capturing razor-sharp snapshots of love and hysteria. She details tearful rides in the back of the van on tour, the summer glances from an ex-lover burned into her brain, the cramped quarters and unorthodox sleeping situations in the punk space she resides. “We sleep in the same bed at opposite times,” she coos on folk-tinged “Charlie”.

Over the course of 10 tracks, the 28 year-old stares down the barrel of a dead relationship through the lens of a vagabond spirit, not wincing a bit in letting listeners in on the painful process of severing ties and moving on. Crutchfield’s trademark songwriting chops are sharp as ever on her solo debut, but it’s her voice, alluring and aching, that is finally brought to the forefront.

Crutchfield is deadset on living in the present on current single “I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California,” but she still finds her mind drifting to her ex, as she “keeps confusing love and nostalgia”.

Album opener “Broad Daylight” features Crutchfield singing full-on gospel choir a capella for nearly the first minute before the songs transitions into lush, eerie synths that litter the entire record.

Crutchfield is implored to “go out and kill some memories,” by her ex, the tense exchange interrupted by a mindful waiter filling the pair’s water glasses.

“I look at my reflection in the glossy table / I’m selfish and I’m shallow and unstable,” Crutchfield admits.

Crutchfield’s vignettes are dispatched from back seats traveling the United States coast to coast and even abroad in Paris on “Sightseeing”.

On “Dean’s Room,” she’s back home in Philly, reveling in the rare moments spent alone in her room.

“I dance around in Dean’s Room while I have it to myself / I always feel like someone’s watching me,” she sings over bombastic beats.

“Expatriate,” the track which bears the album’s title, pulses with the energy of a 1960s all-girls band ballad. Crutchfield reminisces and acknowledges she will always hold a bittersweet fondness for a relationship that she spent much of her youth entangled in, but she’s coming to terms with the void left once the romance flickered and faded.

“I am losing my shit all over your summer glance, in the backseat of the van or in hotel bathrooms / I will always love you, but I will throw my suitcase down/ I’m a Tourist in This Town,” Crutchfield sings over percussion reminiscent of The Ronettes “Be My Baby”.

“Tourist In This Town,” cements Crutchfield as not just a talented collaborator, but a charismatic and highly-skilled artist capable of running the show masterfully on her own.

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