Every week, we tell you about an album we think you need to spend time with. This week’s album is color theory, the new album from Soccer Mommy.
“My dream — and it’s a long way off, if ever even possible,” 22-year-old Sophie Allison told the New York Times in a recent profile, “would be that I can get, like, even just one of my Soccer Mommy songs into the Top 40.”
In the context of her 2018 breakout sophomore album Clean, this might seem like a jarring ambition from an indie rocker with a penchant for understated, lo-fi sounds, bare song structure and staunch commitment to her process (the profile also noted Allison said she wouldn’t work with pop co-writer or make a shortened radio edit of “yellow is the color or her eyes.”) Especially in an age where even the most coveted indie rock hits find themselves sitting in popularity purgatory, Allison’s dream is certainly a bold one. But when you listen to color theory, it doesn’t seem that far off.
Both thematically cohesive and filled with pop-y earworms, color theory navigates through the colorfully muddy waters of depression and loneliness (blue), her mother’s terminal illness and her own mental illness (yellow), and death and darkness (grey). All the while, she conjures up hooks that could rival the likes of ‘90s and early-aughts radio faves like Sheryl Crow, Avril Lavigne (a noted influence), Sixpence None The Richer, or The Cranberries. In short, Soccer Mommy’s sharpened each element of the songwriting toolkit, isn’t taking any shortcuts, and has shown significant growth in the right direction.
There are moments where the tracks on color theory feel a bit too buttoned-up. The way “crawling in my skin” builds, for example, sets itself up perfectly to become sonically and unhinged, but ultimately falls back into predictably. But for what color theory lacks in surprise or fervent climax, it makes up for in splitting lyricism, songs that stick to your ribs, glaring proof that Soccer Mommy is tapping into her artistry even further, and perhaps a suggestions that appearing on the Top 40 might not be that surprising of a goal for Allison as it seems.
Amileah Sutliff is a New York-based writer, the Head of Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please and an editor of the book The Best Record Stores in the United States.