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Album Review: Soccer Mommy recount youth struggles on ‘Color Theory’

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Sophie Allison, the creator of Soccer Mommy, grew up in Nashville writing songs on guitar at just six years old. She attended a nearby arts high school where she played in a swing band and grew a large following releasing her original songs on Bandcamp. She attended NYU’s music business program for two years before singing with Fat Possum and moving back to her hometown in Nashville. Since the release of her first album, Allison has gained wide critical acclaim and has opened for acts like Kacey Musgraves and Vampire Weekend. 

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On Allison’s second studio album, she stays true to the sound that earned her a spot on The New York Times list of 2018’s Best Albums with her debut album Clean. Her introspective, indie rock style is still carefully crafted as lo-fi, but frays more along the musical edges than her previous works, often that were lightly produced or uninfluenced by anyone but Allison. The continuity of the story on Color Theory strongly addresses the life of a young, female artist, who seemingly has achieved her goals and surpassed her own expectations, yet is unable to feel truly happy in her life. And isn’t this an extremely relatable sentiment? Especially as Allison’s audience is young, she speaks to a common issue of feeling as if you are right on the edge of having everything you want.

“Circle the Drain” and “Bloodstream” were released as the album’s first official singles in mid-January. Allison opened up about her writing process in ‘Circle the Drain’ on the podcast Song Exploder, detailing that the chorus was written initially in the back of a tour van. The pre-chorus lines lament “things feel that low sometimes even when everything is fine.” The guitar remains acoustic and lively as mirrored by her earlier discography, however, the production has far more layers of sound that compliment her songwriting and guitar-playing than on previous records. “Bloodstream” feels quite similar in its upbeat production yet is heavily contrasted by the weight of the lyrics. The themes she explores on this album of self-harm and lack of confidence are not unique to this particular work, but they feel disguised by major chords and backing drum tracks in a way that did not exist in Clean. Ultimately, if the song sounded sad, then it was, but it’s not as simple as this on Color Theory. 

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While I find the effectiveness of detailing female comparison on Allison’s song “lucy” not as strong as the storytelling of “Cool” on Clean, Soccer Mommy has found a more compelling way of conveying romantic relationships through tracks like “night swimming” in her most recent album. The white noise in the background of the track with the reverb on the guitar ringing out feels as if the listener is underwater while the lyrics surround you telling a story of falling out of love with someone who now feels distant. She illustrates how technology has impacted relationships singing, “Standing in the living room / Talking as you’re staring at your phone / It’s a cold I’ve known.” It’s a common feeling that millennials and young audiences can relate to when phones and social media are impossible to escape.

Soccer Mommy plays to her strengths on Color Theory. She knows she is not the world’s best singer, but this does not keep her from recounting her intimate thoughts and feelings surrounding being an artist and a woman, and the struggles she faces to be happy through imaginative lyrics and lo-fi guitar riffs. She channels Joni Mitchell in her innate ability to craft a lyric and her virtuosity in playing and recording music. Color Theory presents the story of a girl who is looking for what she wants as the audience patiently waits to discover the answer. 

Follow Soccer Mommy on social media and listen to her music here.

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