Soccer Mommy grows up on new album “Clean”

By Paige Daniel

Thoughts Editor

Soccer Mommy, whose Bandcamp account I first stumbled upon deep in the depths of another artist’s Twitter, is now being covered in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Entertainment Weekly and the New York Times with the release of her debut studio album, “Clean.” 

This trajectory strikes me out of the blue – one week I’m listening to her pronouncedly lo-fi compositions in the most arcane way, pressing play on an embedded file in an almost hidden webpage, and next I’m seeing her pop up in the daily news.  

This wouldn’t always surprise me, except I never considered Sophie Allison’s music the kind that would yield such public praise. Her songs, meek in their patient guitar-based pop, are the last subjects I’d expect to be the focus of a New York Times article boldly titled “Hear What Music Will Sound Like in 2018.”  

That is not to say they aren’t worthy subjects; on Allison’s past releases, she managed to distill entire decades of indie rock and lo-fi pop down into sweet, short 30-minute affairs.  

Her last album, “Collection” (2017), repackaged incipient Soccer Mommy classics like “Inside Out” and “3 AM at a Party” in a glossier case alongside newer standouts such as “Allison” and “Out Worn.”  

Like any good pop artist, Allison writes catchy melodies but channels something sadder, a little more bittersweet.  

The instrumental palette of her earlier albums reflected their creative conditions, as lo-fi often does when it’s not phonily orchestrated; the tape hiss or the fuzz was indicative of Allison’s technological means, still recording in her bedroom, and then later, her dorm room.  

Still, the inconsequential realities of teen angst were magnified in her lyrics, with the songs reliant on two nearly opposing sides: peppy twee excursions with knotty guitar leads in tandem with quiet, stretched-out ruminations. 

She’s only one year older, but “Collection” and “Clean” exhibit a songwriter coming into her own with new recording techniques at her disposal since signing to Fat Possum Records.  

On “Clean,” Allison leans into the ruminative side, with brief echoes of electronic production slipping in to the mix that mimic the tape or the fuzz.  

She holds on to the backbone of her music – the guitar – but the production value is higher this time. It is clear she is intent on letting the guitar tones shine, which she does with enthusiasm on the opener “Still Clean.”  

In “Still Clean,” her lover is likened to an animal, and in “Your Dog,” the role is reversed to illuminate the degrading constraints of an abusive relationship. Her potent use of metaphor is a sign of her matured songwriting, with “Your Dog” being the most overtly spiky song Soccer Mommy has ever written.   

The best tracks on “Clean” exist in the space between the two previously opposing sides of her music, ones that build to an explosion rather than sticking to one mode. The pep of “Last Girl” and “Cool” are nice, but downtempo slow-burners like “Flaw” and “Wildflowers” showcase just how far Allison’s songwriting has progressed.  

Her pop inclinations are most interesting on “Skin,” a track that perfectly balances her two sides. She is more assured, not as fixated on the throes of angst but on the feelings one gets when they look back on them.  

This is particularly effective in the minimal “Blossom (Wasting All My Time),” which buries a floating keyboard line in its background. Even if it seems minimal, the production sneakily includes flourishes that reward the listener after several listens.  

Allison has surprisingly come a long way from her bedroom to a more public audience in just two years or so. This is a promising start for someone still dealing with adolescent angst, even as she moves past its drama and nervous outlook. I look forward to seeing more of her in my daily news.  

 

Soccer Mommy, whose Bandcamp account I first stumbled upon deep in the depths of another artist’s Twitter, is now being covered in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Entertainment Weekly and the New York Times with the release of her debut studio album, “Clean.” This trajectory strikes me out of the blue – one week I’m listening to her pronouncedly lo-fi compositions in the most arcane way, pressing play on an embedded file in almost hidden webpage, and next I’m seeing them pop up in the daily news.  

 

This wouldn’t always surprise me, except I never considered Sophie Allison’s music the kind that would yield such public praise. Her songs, meek in their patient guitar-based pop, are the last subjects I’d expect to be the focus of a New York Times article boldly titled “Hear What Music Will Sound Like in 2018.”  

 

That is not to say they aren’t worthy subjects; on Allison’s past releases, she managed to distill entire decades of indie rock and lo-fi pop down into sweet, short 30-minute affairs. Her last album, “Collection” (2017), repackaged incipient Soccer Mommy classics like “Inside Out” and “3 AM at a Party” in a glossier case alongside newer standouts such as “Allison” and “Out Worn.”  

 

Like any good pop artist, Allison writes catchy melodies but channels something sadder, a little more bittersweet. The instrumental palette of her earlier albums reflected their creative conditions, as lo-fi often does when it’s not phonily orchestrated; the tape hiss or the fuzz was indicative of Allison’s technological means, still recording in her bedroom, and then later, her dorm room.  

 

Still, the inconsequential realities of teen angst were magnified in her lyrics, with the songs reliant on two nearly opposing sides: peppy twee excursions with knotty guitar leads in tandem with quiet, stretched-out ruminations. She’s only one year older, but “Collection” and “Clean” exhibit a songwriter coming into her own with new recording techniques at her disposal since signing to Fat Possum Records.  

 

On “Clean,” Allison leans into the ruminative side, with brief echoes of electronic production slipping in to the mix that mimic the tape or the fuzz. She holds on to the backbone of her music – the guitar – but the production value is higher this time. It is clear she is intent on letting the guitar tones shine, which she does with enthusiasm on the opener “Still Clean.”  

 

In “Still Clean,” her lover is likened to an animal, and in “Your Dog,” the role is reversed to illuminate the degrading constraints of an abusive relationship. Her potent use of metaphor is a sign of her matured songwriting, with “Your Dog” being the most overtly spiky song Soccer Mommy has ever written.   

 

The best tracks on “Clean” exist in the space between the two previously opposing sides of her music, ones that build to an explosion rather than sticking to one mode. Peppy excursions “Last Girl” and “Cool” are nice, but downtempo slow-burners, like “Flaw” and “Wildflowers” showcase just how far Allison’s songwriting has progressed.  

 

Her pop inclinations are most interesting on “Skin,” a track that perfectly balances her two sides. She is more assured, not as fixated on the throes of angst but on the feelings one gets when they look back on them. This is particularly effective in the minimal “Blossom (Wasting All My Time),” which hides a floating keyboard line in its background. Even if it seems minimal, the production sneakily includes flourishes that reward the listener after several listens.  

 

Allison has surprisingly come a long way from her bedroom to a more public audience in just two years or so. This is a promising start for someone still dealing with adolescent angst, even as she moves past its drama and nervous outlook. I look forward to seeing more of her in my daily news.  

 

 Screen Shot 2018-03-12 at 2.25.43 PM

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