A Southern Belle with a Northern Vibe and More Bubblegum than Bite
Allison Crutchfield’s new solo album, produced during her step away from the band Swearin,’ brings the voice of an Alabama native firmly into the folksy pop-punk movement currently permeating parts of the east coast. The track that mentions the album’s title, Tourist in This Town, is called “Expatriate,” perhaps suggesting a knowledge of the geographical displacement inherent in this album. The song further suggests the opening of some modern show tune within a production depicting the peak years of American Bandstand. Heavy use of close, all-female harmonies are Spector-like and yet thoroughly contemporary.
Crutchfield’s pleasantly warbling vocals almost hint at folk in the opening interlude, which leads into, “Broad Daylight.” This interlude is full of the lush but clean harmonies that are showcased throughout the album. In a few instances, tracks like the curtailed “The Marriage” dip into heavily pop-accented punk without taking too many risks, much like recent Tegan and Sara and other female pop-punk and/or folk groups. The harmonic richness and often satisfying yet predictable acoustic instrumentation on tracks like “Charlie,” a breathy narrative, suggest the repertoire of an acoustic duo from Portland or Northampton.
Tourist in This Town seamlessly flows from these raw narratives into songs like “Dean’s Room,” which reminds the listener of a 1980s dance anthem from the onset. Multiple tracks will set feet tapping even without this evocative sound. The album has a keen – and keening – femininity about it that is more delicate than The Dollyrots, but with the same surrealist, girlish quality. This is by no means a negative critique, merely a note of the niche Crutchfield seems to fill with her solo work.
“Mile Away” opens with synths that create a sound like a heavily-electrified harpsichord, and evolve into a percussive drive that could serve as the soundtrack to a long road trip, or at least footage of one in the next heartwarming teen romance movie. There are, upon closer listen, many allusions to travel throughout the album, a certain feeling of being uprooted while still harboring cockeyed optimism. One would be remiss not to feel such optimism at Crutchfield’s burgeoning solo ventures, with danceable and honest compositions that could make a transient work a pop mainstay.