Soccer Mommy – Color Theory

An artist taking the difficult second album in their stride.
Label: Concord Records
Released: 28th February 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

Soccer Mommy may sound like the name of a super ironic snark rock band, but Sophie Allison’s music is anything but. Sincere, timely and unadorned, Allison crafts the sort of moody bedroom pop destined to soundtrack countless mornings spent staring through rainy window panes. Thanks to her dry humour, she comfortably has her cake and eats it.

If her 2018 breakthrough, ‘Clean’, showed a clear knack for catchy melodies and tautly-strung emotional autopsies, ‘Color Theory’ exhibits a developing degree of songwriting maturity. Sure, she may winkingly refer to herself as “The princess of screwing up” on ‘royal screw up’, but that’s just one of many apt metaphors for the self-doubt incurred by a toxic relationship. Even if the record is a slow burner at points, Allison consistently burns with an intensity.

Regardless of her propensity for smouldering, ‘Bloodstream’ kicks the album off with a bang. Its raucous-yet-laid-back 90s slacker rock tone sends a clear message; everything is a little different, but the same. Certainly, there was nothing like the seven-minute mini-epic ‘yellow is the color of my eyes’ on ‘Clean’, even if the tools she’s using are largely unchanged. What stands out is still Allison’s knack for crafting simple, wrenching compositions.

As a lyricist, Allison is all limits and knots, each pithy observation pushing her one step closer to catharsis. Though there are some lovely poetic turns of phrase threaded through ‘Color Theory’, she lands her greatest shots when she’s incontestably blunt. The simple impact of the hook on ‘crawling in my skin’ which is (you guessed it) “Crawling in my skin” comes from the weight Allison’s strained vocal imbues it with. Thanks to her forthright honesty, it never feels forced.

At ten tracks this is an explicitly restrained follow-up – the sign of an artist taking the difficult second album in their stride. The back half feels a little weaker than the first, but there’s a remarkable consistency that ensures all the component pieces are singing from the same hymn sheet. Though the emotions expressed might be broad, Allison’s unvarnished writing allows for moments of penetrating nuance. Her ability to laugh and cry at these reflections is what makes her such a charming talent.

Blaise Radley

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