Soccer Mommy: ‘Clean’

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Soccer Mommy (aka Sophie Allison) hasn’t abandoned her lo-fi bedroom pop aesthetic in her latest album Clean, just dialed up the production value a notch and added some layers. Her coming-of-age, sometimes naïve, sometimes adolescently self-deprecating, sometimes wise lyrics still sit unassailably at the forefront of her songs, filling whatever space they’re listened in with raw honesty. The satisfying guitar hook of “Your Dog” and prominent bassline of “Skin” propel Soccer Mommy into rock territory, but the most engrossing tracks are the ones in which Allison’s voice isn’t cloaked by a host of instruments.  In “Scorpio Rising”, her voice soothes over acoustic guitar before retreating into the depths of a full backing band, and when it re-emerges to sing “kiss you in the park / we’ll meet up after dark,” it is oh-so-satisfying.

Allison’s voice is tender, but her songs possess the sardonic grit of a frustrated 20-year-old trying to navigate romance and self-discovery. She sings in second track “Cool,” “Mary has a heart of coal / she’ll break you down and eat you whole” before admitting “I wanna be that cool.” What’s confusing is that she does seem that cool, but keep listening and you’ll realize that her insecurity is a point of emphasis on the album. In “Last Girl,” she declares, “I want to be like your last girl,” good-naturedly lauding a boy’s ex-girlfriend with praises such as “she’s so sweet / and she’s so pretty / even more than me.” As if exalting this girl isn’t enough in itself, she goes on to sing, “I am just a dying flower / I don’t hold the summer in my eyes.”

The unfiltered nature of Clean’s lyrics is both a strength and a weakness, at some points evoking discomfort and pity a little too aggressively; throughout the album, Allison refuses to let you forget that she is only 20. Her bitter songwriting reveals a soft underbelly, one that has been abused and handled carelessly; although she seems to hide behind a façade of flippancy and anger, she allows us to see her sensitive side as well. Her voice vibrates in melancholic “Blossom (Wasting All My Time)” over swelling atmospheric instrumentals as she offers the most vulnerable lyrics of the album with “wasting all my time wondering if he really loved me” but twisting the sentiment halfway into an innocent but resolute declaration: “I’ll be spending all my time with someone who really wants me.” Digesting these lyrics in conjunction with the lyrics of Clean’s other tracks, you’ll find a unique and youthful perspective of the world from someone who truly has something interesting to say.

Lyrical depth isn’t the only lure of Clean, however, as Soccer Mommy delivers a cohesive and pleasing string of soft pop melodies and echoing guitar riffs. For the most part, she utilizes her instrumentation well, but still seems the most comfortable with an acoustic guitar in hand (I personally thought that her acoustic “Interlude” particularly stood out in its creativity), and continually falls back on down-tempo tracks with melodies built upon moderate interval jumps (“Still Clean,” “Flaw,” “Scorpio Rising,” “Wildflowers”). This makes it feel like the album is divided into two distinct sections with two varieties of tracks, but Allison pulls off her up-tempo tracks like “Cool” and “Your Dog” with skill, which indicates that Soccer Mommy is continuing to grow and improve, making Clean a solid listen.

8/10

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