“…A literal effigy to progress and metamorphosis.”
By Sophie Buckman
Millennials get a lot of shit these days. Portrayed as the irresponsible generation; our lives governed by short-lived trends and underlined by an inability to sustain any permanence in supposedly shallow, superficial lives. Hyperbolic though it may be, we do have a reputation as never being quite sure of anything, and the mutability of modern relationships is always brought up as an example of this. Allison Crutchfield reclaims the very essence of Millennial Identity on her new record, Tourist in this Town by embodying true 21st century love, full-bodied but uncertain.
This is summed up succinctly by first track, ‘Broad Daylight’ which opens with a brazen acapella ode to “unquestionable” love before Crutchfield’s narrative crumbles into something less certain, as she comes to the conclusion that love is “not black and white, it’s grey”. Just as the lyrics seem to fold into sadness and doubt, the song explodes into a gorgeous crescendo which seems destined to be blasted at festivals this summer.
That sense of nothing being black and white develops throughout the album, and soon becomes intertwined with themes of transience and change. This becomes increasingly evident in ‘I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California’ and ‘Charlie’, where Crutchfield begins to question the conviction of her love. Realising she actually is angry and “really starting to hate [him]” even while wondering if she’s missed, Crutchfield shows a genuine sense of discomfort – bordering on panic at times – with her situation. The gap between being in a relationship and being single is surely a familiar haunt for many, and Crutchfield’s exploration of this feels endearing and relatable in its honesty.
As well as the uncertainty of modern relationships, Tourist In This Town tackles a more literal change of scenery. Many of Crutchfield’s lyrics relate back to her recent move to Philadelphia, with the song titles themselves revealing how distance and location played a big part in her songwriting (I Don’t Ever Want to Leave California’, ‘Expatriate’, ‘Mile Away’). Perhaps Crutchfield’s evolution from rough around the edges pop-punk with P.S Eliot, to indie staple Swearin’, to this new and mature incarnation mirrors this sense of movement in a way, making the album a literal effigy to progress and metamorphosis.
Interwoven with the theme of movement is the uncertainty that comes with the end of a relationship. Crutchfield outlines this sense of slight panic, but also her passage into acceptance of her situation, through slightly rudimentary but heartfelt lyrics (“The light we once saw in each other / flickers and fades”). This progression into tranquility makes the album feel yet more cathartic, inviting and warm.
Tourist in this Town is underpinned by synth master Jeff Zeigler’s production, showing growth and change from some of her older projects, which followed the more conventional guitar-bass-drums-vox formula. The only downside to this is that some of the tracks, especially on the second half of the album, seem to blend into one after a few listens. As a lead single, for instance, ‘Dean’s Room’ is great but it sadly gets a bit lost in the greater context of the album.
One song, however, stands out as brazen and unique, the aforementioned opener ‘Broad Daylight’. It’s brave, explosive and unforgettable – a shining example of Allison Crutchfield’s vocal and instrumental talent, and her evolution as a songwriter. The album as a whole is refreshingly mature in its attitudes to love, growth and movement, without losing the more youthful and playful qualities that Crutchfield had often displayed on past musical endeavours. Musically exhilarating in many parts (though less so in others), the emotional exploration, complexity and depth of themes upholds Tourist in this Town as a herald for positive change and progression – something we could probably all do with a little more of this year.