Release Date: Feb 28, 2020
Record label: Loma Vista
There's something endlessly captivating about using light, upbeat melodies and colorful imagery to display your inner darkness. The juxtaposition is almost like dramatic currents in a comedy, where you've been disarmed by the brightness to point where the heavy moments hit harder. That's the experience of listening to color theory. Soccer Mommy's second album is equal parts buoyant, earworm riffs and gut punches.
Since the release of acclaimed 2018 breakthrough 'Clean', Sophie Allison aka Soccer Mommy has established herself as one of the most gifted storytellers of her generation. Translating complex emotional landscapes into uncompromising declarations on life, she traverses between joy and pain in a poignantly cathartic manner. On 'color theory', Sophie illustrates an honest self portrait of herself as a musician, addressing her struggles with mental health and family trials.
The warm, melodic songs of Sophie Allison's Soccer Mommy conceal daggers. On her 2018 debut full-length, Clean, Allison depicted young love as a venue for self-loathing and violent longing, wrapped up in the sweetest melodies indie rock had to offer. The songs on Clean were endearingly rugged, emotionally sophisticated, and deceptively brutal. Nearly two years on, they burn as brightly as they did on first release.
Though Soccer Mommy's Sophie Allison generated buzz as early as 2015 with her introspective, then-self-recorded tracks, the project made its official debut three years later with Clean, a critically lauded set of hooky, heartbroken songs with lyrics that were notably vulnerable and relatable. That more hi-fi release was produced by Gabe Wax, known for his work in the studio with acts like the War on Drugs, Cass McCombs, and Frankie Cosmos. The pair reunited for the follow-up, color theory, Soccer Mommy's Loma Vista debut.
To tackle dark subject matter lightly requires a particular kind of dexterity: sensitive, yet playful; honest, yet fun. A title like Color Theory might not prepare you for an album that deals with death, depression, and decay. A record that sounds the way Color Theory does - uplifting, poppy musicality and down-to-earth vocals, rooted in pop-punk and alt.country - might not spell out those themes, either.
When Sophie Allison sings, she sounds wide-open and guarded, casual and intense, intimate and coolly removed. In her best songs as Soccer Mommy, a piercing line --"I don't wanna be your fucking dog," for example, from "Your Dog"--wriggles away from direct interpretation as she delivers it, turning from declaration to hypothesis. Some of the magnetism of her pop-inflected indie rock comes from the winding shape of her melodies; in their unpredictable motion, they often resemble counterpoint written to a root melody that's been erased.
The most poignant feature of Color Theory is its deliberately episodic nature. Set in three distinct parts, each representing a colour, for the first part we're presented with blue. Naturally with this comes a melancholy; a deep, timeless sadness perfectly nuanced by brainchild Sophie Allison. Opening track, "bloodstream", asks the age-old question everyone has had on their lips whilst sobbing into a mirror: "what does she have / that I didn't / and why am I so blue?" This relatability Soccer Mommy creates is just why so many people find a home in her music.
Meet me in the middle "Pleasant" is not an emotion I often associate with great art. It's the kind of thing that hangs in the back of your mind as you drink a cold beer in the sun on a temperate day - "This sure is pleasant". It's not even the kind of thing one would literally say aloud - it comes and goes without words. It's a fine feeling to have, but it's not interesting enough to think about for more than a split second.
The Lowdown: Color Theory is Sophie Allison's follow-up to Clean , the 2018 record that brought the Nashville singer-songwriter better known as Soccer Mommy to the forefront of indie rock's radar. On her sophomore album, Allison turns away from external concerns such as romantic relationships and plunges inward, charting deeply personal waters with the cascading guitars and lilting vocals that have become her hallmarks, fuzzed by a new, glitching, and glimmering industrial edge. Color Theory is permeated by themes of accumulation, gradual spiraling, and downward motion, be it circling the drain, sinking, or drowning.
M any people who have had to contend with depression will recognise little truths leaping out at them from the second album by Sophie Allison, under the nom de plume Soccer Mommy. "There's someone talking in my forehead that says I'll never be enough," she sings on Bloodstream; "I cling to the dark of my room / and the days thin me out / Or just burn me straight through," offers Circle the Drain; "Sedate me all the time / Don't leave me with my mind," she asks on Crawling in My Skin. There's a universality to much of her writing that belies that fact that she's singing about specifics: about her own life, and about growing up with a mother with a terminal, long-term illness.