Soccer Mommy takes a deep dive into her emotional identity and lays it all out bare
Sophie Allison, also known as Soccer Mommy, returns with her sophomore album ‘Color Theory’. The follow up to 2017’s critically acclaimed ‘Clean’ which saw Allison reach massive new audiences and become a household name in the world of indie rock, with the album taking many of the highest spots on best of the year lists, and deservedly on some best of the decade lists.
Although this is Allison’s second full length album under the Soccer Mommy name she has an impressive back catalogue of various EP’s, Mini Albums and collections of songs. A treasure trove of bedroom indie-pop that showcases her early songwriting and story telling talent. But after years of ever growing quality and greater sonic exploration, would Allison play it safe now that she has an established audience?
The concept of ‘Color Theory’ is based on the simple but powerful, colour theory. The theory that certain colours are linked to particular moods and feelings. This concept is explored on ‘Color Theory’ as the album is split into three sections, or colours. The first four songs are Blue, representing depression, the next three are Yellow, representing anxiety but also hope, and the final three are Grey, representing death and loss.
The first of the Blue section is ‘Bloodstream’, a track that explores some of the darkest themes on the album early on, wishing you could go back to a time when you were younger and happier, and covering up evidence of previous self harm. “Cause I may not feel it now, covered up the wounds with my long sleeves
But I know it’s waiting there, swimming through my bloodstream And it’s gonna come for me”. The instrumentals sing a different tune with the up beat chugging riff and the calming melody hide the true message of the song from the casual listener.
“Circle The Drain”, the third single released, is the catchiest tune on the album with its anthemic chorus it is sure to be a fan, and radio, favourite. (Watch Soccer Mommy perform ‘Circle The Drain’ on Jimmy Kimmel here). As a common premise of the album the upbeat early 90’s indie riff is contrasted with Allison’s deep diving lyrics that embrace her emotional termoil. “Round and around, Circle the drain, I’m going down”.
‘Royal Screw Up’ takes a change of style to the last two tracks as the idea of a chorus is dropped altogether in favour of a diary entry like poem style of lyrics that blend into one long story with no two phrases the same. It’s Allison at her rawest, no idea is overthought and every inceptive emotion is real. The song does feel a little drawn out at points and feels as though you’re slowly chugging along to get through it, with the eventual payoff of the lead guitars and rhythm section towards the end.
The gentle ballad of ‘Night Swimming’ is a story of looking for help and comfort when you feel alone from someone else, but getting nothing back. The most shoegaze song on the album with the distant drones, ambient vocals and big reverb it wouldn’t feel out of place on a Beach House album. The bleak image of sitting alone at the end of a pool whilst everyone around you is having a good time is drawn in your mind as the sampled background chatter fades in and out. “You watched me sink beneath the water like a stone, and then let go, I came for air and found that I was so alone”
“Crawling In My Skin” is Soccer Mommy embracing her inner goth. Exploring the idea of anxiety and sleep paralysis at home and feeling as if you’re being watched by a demon. A heavier grungier riff and haunting layered vocals shows Allison maturing as a songwriter and takes the Soccer Mommy sound into significantly darker territories than they’ve ever been before, long gone are the soft indie acoustic numbers of ‘For Young Hearts’.
“The bright August sun feels like yellow, And the white of her eyes is so yellow”. The opening line to Soccer Mommy’s 7 minute epic which is “Yellow Is The Colour Of Her Eyes”. It’s Allison trying to cope with the thought of being away from her terminally Ill mother and the feeling of losing time with her. With perhaps the gloomiest riff on the album, and some of the most personal lyrics this is Allison laying out all her emotions into one song. Essentially split into two halves, the main song and then the outro, this song takes you on an emotional journey and stands as a centre piece for the album as a whole.
A short but sweet apology to a lover for mental health issues that Allison has suffered from in the past and the strain it may have had on their relationship takes the form of “Up The Walls”. The gradual build up of instruments and layers creates a blissful palette of sound, only to slowly fade out again, making you wish it would stick around for a bit longer and offer a few more ideas. But then again we have just come out the back of a mini epic, this light relief is gently settling us back down for the end of this phase.
The final leg of the album, the grey area if you may, is opened with the first single released from the album. “Lucy” again embraces a more gothic side to Allison’s songwriting. A song about battling your inner demons and morality, disguised as a seduction from the devil himself, or Lucy to his friends. “His body’s a temple, made of brimstone and fire, you cannot resist him, when you look in his shiny eyes”. The clever dark lyricism on this song, contrasted with the bright upbeat guitar riff, would to the casual listener sound like your average indie-rock hit, but dive deeper and you see the workings of one of the most talented songwriters in the modern indie scene.
“Stain” is a cut that wouldn’t feel out of place thematically on ‘Clean’. Feeling angry at a past situation that manipulated you and the feeling of loss from it. Its menacing riff, sparse instrumentation and ominous tone is Allison laying out her emotions front and centre, not hiding behind the music. The song does suffer though from the pacing as with ‘Royal Screw Up’ and feels as if it’s building towards a climax that never arrives.
The last stop on our journey through Allisons subconscious is one that will eventually be the end of all our journey’s. The overarching fear of certain mortality, and death, comes front and centre on “Gray Light”. Allison is watching over her sick mother, gazing up at the pale moon and wondering when this is going to happen to her. “Inside the gray light of my room, Am I just like you?, Am I gonna be that way too soon?”. The more experimental side of Soccer Mommy’s sound comes out with electronic drum machines, sampled tape rewinds and big synth drops, it shows hints of what Soccer Mommy could be capable of creating without straining too far away from her classic melancholy guitar riffs.
The sound and stories embodied within this album showcase a songwriter getting a bit older, feeling more confident in their ability to convey these stories and the emotions attached to them and not scared to take risks to progress their sound to the next level. Soccer Mommy continues to cement her status as one of indie’s most promising new talents and after two solid full length albums she doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon.