As a huge fan of pop music on the depressive end of the spectrum, nothing quite piques my interest like the words “break up album.” This year already seems like a stellar year for the genre, featuring promising entries from the likes of Ryan Adams and the Dirty Projectors. Allison Crutchfield solo debut, Tourist in this Town, definitely fits into the heartbreak oeuvre. She wrote the album after breaking up with long-time boyfriend, producer, and Swearin’ band mate Kyle Gilbride.
Even though this is an unabashed breakup record, the ennui on the record is not solely romantic. Impermanence and change is a major undercurrent of the album. She wrote most the album while touring with her twin sister, Katie, who is the mastermind behind Waxahatchee (another must listen to artist for fans of sad lady rock). Throughout the record she eludes to frequent changes of scenery that come along with touring (from Porto to Northern California and Paris) which mirror the abrupt fluctuations she is facing in her personal life. Even at home in Philadelphia, she still feels like a tourist, because her life has altered so much since the end of her relationship. I’m about as far as you can get from a touring musician (I’m a librarian who barely leaves my couch), but I definitely could identify with the fear and loss of having several key things in your life change at once; especially when the changes are not expected or wanted.
In spite of the heavy themes, the music is surprisingly upbeat. The album has a 80s synth heavy vibe that manages not to feel overly retro. The single “Dean’s Room” has echoes of late 80s the Cure (think Disintegration era, but more compact). Other songs like “I Don’t Ever Wanna Leave California” have hints of 60s girl groups in the sound. My two favorite tracks on the album are “Charlie” and “Expatriate.” “Charlie” is a bittersweet look back at a complicated relationship already starting to have problems. It also really makes me want to drink champagne sangria on a Porto beach, though I definitely don’t want the relationship angst that accompanies it. “Expatriate” tells the very relatable tale of wanting to skip town to avoid seeing your ex-beau with a new flame. It also highlights the difficulty of feeling at home in a place where all your memories are with someone who is no longer in your life.
Tourist in this Town is my favorite listen of the year so far. It’s a short (the album is only 33 minutes in length) but meaningful listen. Whether you are a break up album obsessive like me, or just a fan of well-crafted indie pop music, seek it out.