TOURIST IN THIS TOWN by Allison Crutchfield
Genre: Indie Pop
Favorite Tracks: “Broad Daylight,” “Mile Away”
For as much as people might say they only listen to lyrics, they probably wouldn’t listen to them the same way in the absence of any beat or instrumentation. Such musical elements provide the context for how you should interpret the lyrics, the lenses through which the artist wants you to see them. The successful intertwining of both types of writing, lyrical and musical, can elevate music above something that is purely vocal or instrumental. Unfortunately, Allison Crutchfield should probably have gone with something purely vocal, because the music is a heavy anchor that prevents TOURIST IN THIS TOWN from reaching the heights it so desperately wants to.
The most pervasive problem is how formless so many of the songs are: they are musical journeys with no structure and loads of unnecessary bells and whistles. From the overly twinkly background noise on “Sightseeing” to the oddly muffled and layered vocals on “Charlie,” it feels like placeholder filler that no one remembered to replace before the due date rapidly approached. None of the endings are especially satisfying, especially on the extended, reverb-soaked guitars on “Dean’s Room” that just seem to cut out when they get bored. TOURIST IN THIS TOWN is also over the place in terms of style; “Mile Away” sounds like a straight-up Chrvches rip off, and the out-of-nowhere, under-one-minute “The Marriage” just sounds like the Strokes. The latter is so disconnected from the rest of the album musically that at first I thought it was a glitch on Spotify.
If something is going to call itself a pop album, it needs to have some level of sticking power. I’m not talking about the mindless repetition of Top 40, Max Martin-penned radio smashes, but TOURIST IN THIS TOWN has almost no memorable melodies. The synths are especially egregious in this regard, constantly locked into one note or a back and forth between two. The tones are almost all sour and sharp, like on “I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California” and “Secret Lives and Deaths.” Furthermore, none of the instruments establish themselves as the main hook for the other musical elements to play off of. The music feels disconnected from itself, lacking any connective tissue but still being too plentiful to be intriguingly minimal.
Even though this is her first full album and her music has no idea what it wants to be, Allison’s personality and heartbreak are firmly established. She doesn’t hide herself under loads of overly flowery language, cutting straight to her own heartbreak and how disappointed she is in herself and her lovers. The feeling of uncomfortable isolation, even when surrounded by others, that the album title brings to mind are also very present, and Allison’s voice is fairly pretty in a country, rustic Kate Bush In fact, her voice and personality seem more appropriate for folk, accoustic, or symphonic accompaniment.
The good news is that Allison has proven that that she knows how to conjure an isolated, downtrodden mood, which is certainly a very impressive gift to have on her first album. The bad news is that everything surrounding her is disconnected, unfocused, and baffling. It’s a hard, impenetrable shell covering a gooey center of decent vocals and wayward journeyman charm, neither of which are sweet enough to make up for how sour every note of music is.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend