Soccer Mommy’s Dismayed Songs of Young Adulthood

The Nashville singer-songwriter Sophie Allison, who performs as Soccer Mommy, has a knack for pulling the listener into her pit of anxiety. “It’s a half-hearted calm / The way I’ve felt since I was thirteen,” she sings of her affliction on “bloodstream,” a song from 2020. “But I know it’s waiting there / Swimming through my bloodstream / And it’s gonna come for me / Yeah, it’s gonna come for me.” After releasing a string of EPs on Bandcamp (one, fittingly, was called “songs for the recently sad”) and two unpolished bedroom recordings, she emerged in 2018 as a fully formed indie-rock star. Her début, “Clean,” was full of songs of infatuation, streaked with melancholy; the music that she’s released since plunges into the depths of depression and nothingness. Allison is a writer on par with peers like Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and her friend Lindsey Jordan of Snail Mail, with a gift for casual yet evocative storytelling. Her lyrical style is conversational and fragile, but she has a way of making each anecdote feel fully absorbing.

Allison’s album “Color Theory,” from 2020, seemed to signal the artist leaving the intimacy and privacy of her bedroom and embracing the amplification of the studio. She had begun to pursue a catchier pop sound, signing with Loma Vista Recordings and layering her songs with more synthesizers, acoustic and electric guitar, pedal steel, and even harp. With a bigger setup came richer, brighter, and more focussed songs, but within these colorful arrangements lay some of Allison’s grimmest feelings. On “crawling in my skin,” amid looping guitar and synth lines, she sings, dazed yet beaming, of sleep paralysis, paranoia, and torturous hallucinations.

The new Soccer Mommy album, “Sometimes, Forever,” continues to play with light and darkness—how joy and misery feed off each other, and how both emotions can make the two words of the title resemble one another. Allison is skilled at capturing both the ephemeral and illusions of the eternal, and the songs fixate on how nothing—doom, hope—ever really lasts. The verses of “newdemo” imagine various looming crises, and Allison’s singing is sweet but resigned, until the chorus, which surges toward wish fulfillment: “Sometimes I dream there’s a gate to the garden / That only the earth could break through,” she sings. But this, she knows, is another dead end. “But what is a dream but a light in the darkness / A lie that you wish would come true?”

Produced with Daniel Lopatin, a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never, the album is Soccer Mommy’s gnarliest and most resplendent, fashioning poppy melodies, disarming lyrics, and twisted sounds into dismayed songs of young adulthood. “And I’ve got a heart that beats too fast / And a shake in my hands and a pain in my back,” she sings on “Feel It All the Time,” a song about being twenty-two, sounding both weary and prepared. Allison’s ability to skew her bittersweet tunes with a “subtle weirdness,” as Lopatin has described it, is on full display in these songs, which maintain a weightless pop charm even if they’re sonically heavy. Her voice always floats to the surface of even the densest alt-rock compositions, such as the scuzzy “Shotgun” and the washed-out “Don’t Ask Me”—the two grungiest and most frizzed-out tracks on the record. “Unholy Affliction,” an industrial-sounding dispatch from the other side of a commercial breakthrough, is glitchy, clanging, and metallic, until it settles into an eerily beautiful hook. “It’s all in my bones and in my blood / So carve me up and let the colors run,” she sings, consumed by a desire so intense it feels like death. But that feeling will pass, too.

Allison has said that the album was inspired by horror movies, and much of the imagery is macabre—dogs tearing into flesh, a million spiders crawling across skin, struggling against the devil’s leash. Demons recur throughout her discography, usually as personifications of her encroaching dread, and here she fantasizes about immolation as freedom from haunting. The production smolders around her voice on “Darkness Forever,” an homage of sorts to Sylvia Plath, with cascades of guitar between verses erupting like fire. (She imagines Plath’s kitchen “like hot sticky summer.”) But there’s a certain self-awareness to the artist’s torrents of gothic metaphor. “I don’t know how to feel things small / It’s a tidal wave or nothing at all,” she sings on the closer, “Still.” “I can’t believe in Heaven now / It’s been Hell on Earth for a second.” The record becomes enveloped by such darkness, yet Allison always seems to find her way through. ♦


This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *