Allison Crutchfield’s debut solo LP Tourist in This Town plays like a dark and weary travelogue. The new record finds her processing personal tectonic shifts against the backdrop of far-flung locales while touring as a member of her twin sister Katie’s band Waxahatchee.
Originally from Alabama, Crutchfield has spent much of the past decade on the road—first traveling the DIY circuit with Katie in their cultishly beloved feminist punk duo P.S. Eliot before realizing her bitingly catchy and blisteringly economical songwriting voice with mid-fi pop-punk legends Swearin’. But Swearin’ dissolved, Crutchfield broke up with one of its members, and the fallout from these major life changes catalyzed with her solo project. If you’re exhausted reading that whirlwind summary of a young musical life, imagine how Crutchfield feels.
“Because of my lifestyle the last couple of years, it’s kind of impossible for me to just sit down and write a song,” she explains. “Since I was traveling so much, I was just keeping these really diligent notes.” This journaling habit allowed her to preserve her emotions for a time when she’d be able to process them: “I was just tabling those feelings for later.”
The arc of Tourist in This Town feels both urgent and distant, its 10 songs reflecting how the present instantly becomes enshrined in memory. Crutchfield documents not just her feelings, but the way place interacts with and alters the feelings themselves.
“I keep confusing love and nostalgia,” she sings on “I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California.” Crutchfield doesn’t clearly explain the relationship between these sentiments, instead illustrating their complexity with lyrics like “I aspire to live in the present/But I look at bungalows and I calculate the rent.”
This disoriented abandon permeates the record, amplified by the heady, spacious layers of synths that have become her new project’s calling card. Crutchfield’s move away from the guitar pop of Swearin’ and P.S. Eliot was an intentional effort to distinguish her solo work, which she notes benefited from a collaboration with Philadelphia-based producer Jeff Zeigler (Kurt Vile, A Sunny Day in Glasgow).
“When I went into the studio with Jeff, he just happened to have this extensive knowledge of synthesizers and such a beautiful collection of them, so it kind of worked out perfectly,” she says.
It’s tempting to view Tourist in This Town as a clean break from Crutchfield’s previous music—a breakup record about a former bandmate that’s reflected in a stark sonic departure from that band. But Crutchfield is still the same acerbic and fearless observer, her lyrics unflinchingly honest in their feminist perspective.
“The lyrics in Swearin’ were at times much more overtly feminist, speaking about punk spaces and feminism in punk,” she says. “With this record, the feminist content is more nuanced and personal... about letting yourself get to a really low emotional point and finding a way to love yourself anyway.”