Soccer Mommy’s 2018 album, Clean, was a stunning, expectation-shattering debut. The record, released when Sophie Allison was just 20 years old, found its way into the top 10 of year-end lists by Paste, Stereogum, The Ringer and even the New York Times, where it landed at No. 1.
But Clean is also an intensely sad album. Amid the buzz of Soccer Mommy’s meteoric rise from a post-college-dropout project to a zeitgeist-shifting, late-night TV show-headlining indie band, it can be easy to forget just how sentimental Allison is as a songwriter — and how integral that sentimentality was to her success.
Color Theory, Soccer Mommy’s latest record, makes that fact impossible to ignore. The album, which is already being heralded as a confident, star-making effort, is unapologetically sad.
And that’s exactly why it works so well. The 10 track album, which is split into three sections based on three cumbersome emotions (blue for depression; yellow for anxiety; gray for death and loss) is jam-packed with the same sort of somber lyrics that made Clean such a powerful debut.
Except this time, Allison’s words have gotten sharper — and so has her musicianship. Color Theory is drenched in a wildly specific brand of pop-focused, early 2000s-rock nostalgia, the kind that wouldn’t have felt too out of place in the background of an American Pie movie two decades ago.
The songs aren’t bubbly by any means (in fact they’re often downright grungy) but the familiarity — and catchiness — of those pop music tropes serves as the perfect pairing for Allison’s weighty lyrics. In making her sadness so weightless, she makes it accessible, and, more importantly, cathartic.
“It’s about having depressive episodes and withdrawing myself into isolation,” Allison told Pitchfork in a breakdown of the record’s second track, “Circle the Drain.” “Making it poppy is this weird cry for help while being like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to make it through this.'”
On Color Theory, Soccer Mommy copes with isolation, self-destructive behaviors and family tragedy (including the slow, terminal illness of her mother, who is currently in good condition). But she packages, enhances and ultimately explores those emotions through her music, which is as stylish and appealing as anything being made in indie rock today.
Sophie Allison might be sad, but she’s working on it — and her music is only getting better as she does.
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Social media flex of the week
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