One of the first things that stood out to me as I sat down to listen to Sophie Allison’s (Soccer Mommy) latest record, Color Theory, was how much her songwriting and confidence had grown in such a short period. Typically after releasing a successful debut album, songwriters can get a little shell-shocked by their success and fall into the dreaded sophomore slump that swallows up so many great artists. Luckily for us, that is not the case on the fantastic second record from Soccer Mommy. Filled with lush musical landscapes, futuristic artwork, and packaging, as well as some of her best songs to date, everything clicks perfectly into place on Color Theory.
Starting off the record with “Bloodstream,” the familiar acoustic guitar-driven songwriting reminds us of the beauty of Soccer Mommy’s approach to music. Still, she has decided to fill out more of these moments with electric elements, pulsating beats, and heavy bass to round out her vision for her music. Allison tackles her struggles with mental health and floods the listener with her memories as she sings, “False memories driven starting down from my barren knees / I ran too fast, fell down on my face in the concrete / I guess the lesson’s learned, I barely left my room in the past week / I’ve got my guard up, trying all the time to stay clean / I don’t feel anything, I won’t feel anything.” Her overall vision and approach to her songs is something not usually seen from an artist this young, and the sky is the limit for her if she continues along this trajectory.
“Circle the Drain” follows the great opener with some more introspective lyrics as well as an amped-up sound that was missing from her debut album, Clean. Allison sings on the chorus, “Hey, I’ve been falling apart these days / Split open watching my heart go round and around / Round and around / Circle the drain / I’m going down.” Her lyrics feel improved from debut, and she continues to be as relatable, likable, and authentic as she’s ever been here. The feel of the sound surrounding her words seems more significant, and fits her quest for showcasing the power of her songwriting.
“Royal Screw Up” sounds as close as what we have grown accustomed to from Allison’s songwriting from Clean. Still, she continues to invite us into her headspace as she sings delicately around the acoustic guitar and booming kick drums that expand upon the sound she was starting to discover on her debut. “Night Swimming,” on the other hand, is a beautiful departure from the sound she made on her debut album, and yet it still feels like a Soccer Mommy song through and through. Her lyrical imagery on the last verse of, “I swim back to the shoreline / And found that all you left me was a note / I read it slow / It said that you would love me / But you knew that you would end up on your own / A sinking stone,” is tragically gorgeous. The music surrounding it matches the lyrical beauty of her words.
“Crawling In My Skin” is as close as we’re going to get as to a dance-worthy Soccer Mommy track, and it doesn’t disappoint. Allison’s words of, “Sedate me all the time / Don’t leave me with my mind” give us a glimpse of her insecurities as well as her own fears, doubts, and dealing with the outside world. This fast-paced song turned out to be one of my favorites from the record, and the lyrical content stuck with me in a hauntingly beautiful way.
“Yellow is the Color of Her Eyes” is another song that lives up to the hype surrounding Soccer Mommy’s sophomore record that is filled with so many memorable moments. The way she can convey her feelings to anyone willing to listen through the speakers makes it feel like she’s speaking directly to her audience. It never comes across as forced, and her delicate vocals only further display the vulnerabilities that make her just as human as anyone else.
Rounding out the latter half of the record with the equally vulnerable moments of “Up the Walls,” and a recently released single in “Lucy,” only expound upon the extraordinary qualities that Allison brings to her music and makes her such a memorable talent. On the latter track, she never loses the command of her words and begins to exude more confidence as the entire song unfolds before our eyes.
The closing duo of “Stain” and “Gray Light” round out the record that is turning out to be one of my early favorites for an “album of the year” designation in 2020. Sophie Allison wants you to believe that she is just your average singer-songwriter that is trying to make a meaningful connection through her music. Yet, she comes across as more of a youthful superhero of sorts. To have so much raw emotion in her music and be able to artistically convey her vision into a collection of songs that fit so well together is a feat that should not be glanced over. Instead, we should recognize Soccer Mommy as one of the more important youthful voices and talents to grace our headphones in quite some time.