For Allison Crutchfield, Tourist in This Town is about triumph through change. And over the past year, the seasoned singer-songwriter has weathered playing around the world, the end of a relationship, the end of a band, and the pangs of being a young adult. She took those experiences and created an album that sets out to traverse those emotions while pulling from the eclectic musical background she shares with her sister Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee.

Impressively, Tourist in This Town was recorded in one week at the Philadelphia studio of Jeff Ziegler (Kurt Vile, Steve Gunn, Mary Lattimore). What really set the pace for Tourist and Allison’s compositions, was the vast array of synths and Moogs that Ziegler had at the ready. This shift in sound and branching into new territory instrument-wise brings a fresh energy to the album. As Allison says, “this record marked a sonic transition in the way I think about the element of space in music, and I attribute that mainly to Jeff.” And it’s this push and pull between comfortable, guitar-driven bedroom pop and uncharted waters of electronic keys and soundscapes that defines Tourist in This Town.

The album opens with ‘Broad Daylight’. Allison’s voice comes a capella out of the ether with a slow layering of backing vocal “oohs” and instrumentation. It’s a powerful way to open an album and sets the stage for this being a journey from the beginning- not in media res. When she sings, “With the fear of waking life/ And the thoughts of you and I/ Our love is unquestionable/ Our love is here to die,” you can’t help but get goosebumps. The track soon kicks into a bombast of drums and synths.

Then, a shift to the familiar. While the second track, ‘I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California’ opens with a synth, it quickly evolves into a mid-tempo indie surf-rock doo-wop. “I keep confusing love and nostalgia/ I don’t ever wanna leave California.” It’s lyrics like this that bite and tell a story at the same time. This track is the next progression of coming to terms with a finished relationship - knowing that it’s over, but dealing with the fear of taking those next steps.

Allison goes back to the heavy synths, electronics, and pounding drums on ‘Dean’s Room’. It begs to be danced to. But then there’s the drawn out ‘Sightseeing’ coming in at almost 5 minutes in length. It is characterized by languorous, layered synths, minimal percussion, and Allison’s lamentations and deep thoughts. Next a return to the old guitar comforts of ‘Expatriate’ and the garage rock of ‘The Marriage’.

Per Jeff Ziegler, “Allison was into keeping minor imperfections intact when they didn’t get in the way of the song.” This is important to note because it is the bedrock of an album so focused on impermanence and the “new.” It is reassuring when artists are blunt with their purposefulness. Meaning, those “imperfections” aren’t just a cool factor. There is something about the lack of polish in certain areas that energizes the songs and emphasizes that humanity and humility she expresses through her lyrics.

These imperfections, to me, aren’t apparent in sour notes or clichéd lyrics. The imperfections come from the eclectic sounds going from song to song. Exploration in any medium of art is needed. Exploration in the format of an album is extraordinary if the threading is strong. The downside of this is that that threading can be very difficult to maintain. There are stellar songs on Tourist, but there are times where songs feel like they could be from different albums, composition-wise. The energy, the purpose, the drive are all there; but at times the interest wanes.

With that said, Allison Crutchfield has proven her poetry is a force to be reckoned with. She is able to take words coming from a place so personal and place them in a pattern that anyone with a heart can relate to. She not only tells a story, she takes it a step further, peeling back the façade and interacting with the truths that haunt us all in those late night hours. And it is that bravery that truly propels Tourist in This Town.