Review by Maryjo Mattea
I first met Sophie Allison (aka Soccer Mommy) at a Sofar Sounds show in New York City in late 2016. One of my bands played alongside hers in a sofa store in Chelsea. (As it happens, a sofa store is actually a great place for a concert—ample comfy seating!) My bandmates and I were all struck by her effortlessly delicate voice and poignant lyricism, so when I saw her name on a list of albums in need of reviews, I jumped at the opportunity to comment on an artist about whom I have the good fortune of saying, “I saw her before she was famous.”
I was initially struck by the length of the songs on Allison’s latest release, Color Theory. In an era in which pop songs are rarely longer than three and a half minutes, seeing five minute long songs (and even one that clocks in at 7:15) on an LP feels almost nostalgic. Consequently, my first thought was that here’s a musician who actually gives a shit about her craft and the substance of the music she’s producing and has given the proverbial middle finger to the the prevailing ethos about crafting shorter songs to yield more streaming revenue. She has essentially told that mentality that it can go straight to hell and I’m with her on that.
Then I hit “Play.” The production on this album is top notch and nothing about these songs would suggest that their author is only 22 years old. As a thirty-(indiscernible)-year-old woman, I admittedly have a tendency to write off younger artists as not having enough experience to really say anything, but thank you, Sophie Allison, for showing me otherwise. The soft timbre of the voice singing the words may very well be the only thing that gives her youth away; every word displays a wisdom far beyond her years. These songs are deep and introspective and deal with heavy subject matter (like mental health and family struggles). The darkness of the content is cleverly masked by sweetly delicate melodies. And the “softness” of Allison’s voice is not like the whispery ASMR style of Billie Eilish’s vocals; rather, the simple and inviting nature of Allison’s voice reflects vulnerability and makes her seem ingenuous and approachable.
Do you know what is missing from this record? The excessive electronic elements that permeate modern pop music. The songs on Color Theory are not only authentic in substance, but also real sounding. The effects that are used are there for very specific purposes. “I wanted the experience of listening to Color Theory to feel like finding a dusty old cassette tape that has become messed up over time, because that’s what this album is: an expression of all the things that have slowly degraded me personally,” Allison says. “The production warps, the guitar solos occasionally glitch, the melodies can be poppy and deceptively cheerful. To me, it sounds like the music of my childhood distressed and, in some instances, decaying.”
My favorite track is actually the opening song, “Bloodstream.” There’s something about it that reminds me of mid-90s MTV; I imagine it’d be sandwiched between Belly and Liz Phair. I’m not even sure why I’m still writing this review when I should just shut up and let you go listen to the album. Allison poured her heart and soul into it and it shows.
Soccer Mommy will be playing a show in my current city of residence, Washington, DC, on March 28th at the world-famous 9:30 Club and I, personally, can’t wait.