by Mark Jackson
Our 2018 review of Soccer Mommy’s zealous studio debut, Clean, concluded that it would be Sophie Allison’s passion and drive that would set the trajectory for her increasing significance and influence in the coming years. Her follow-up release, color theory, is the exact practical embodiment of such a prediction.
Lyrically, color theory is the self-portrayal of mental torment and the unravelling of complex emotional traits way beyond the usual self-awareness of a 22 year old. Addressing themes of depression and suicidal ideation (‘I see the noose, it follows me closely whatever I do’), loneliness and relationship breakdown (‘You watched me sink beneath the water like a stone….I came for air and found that I was so alone’), and the heartache of a young woman staring down the reality of her mothers’ terminal illness (‘Loving you isn’t enough, you’ll still be deep in the ground when it’s done, I’ll know the day when it comes, I’ll feel the cold as they put out my sun’), Allison achieves her intended goal of an album that expresses ‘all the things that have slowly degraded me personally’.
Alongside the lyrics, she’s created an album that feels as though you’ve stumbled upon ‘a dusty old cassette tape that has become messed up over time’ – her precise intent with this second outing, and achieved no doubt through a recording process that saw each track committed as a live take to tape. This foundation adds to the album’s aesthetic of being tarnished yet captivatingly honest.
Tracks including bloodstream, lucy, and circle the drain share the more similar musical blueprint as presented throughout Clean. However, many more delicate moments here showcase the growing confidence of Allison in her craft, demonstrated most perfectly in the gentle finger pick of night swimming, and the near sonic perfection of up the walls – her most gently penned tracks to date. Nonetheless it remains the brutally aggrieved disclosures delivered throughout that remain the consistent tie with her well received debut and provide the captivating draw of the record.
As an album of songs constructed while touring the world and penned with every snatched backstage opportunity, there remains a refreshing sense of opportunism in Allison’s work. In truth, Allison is not the greatest melody maker in the business right now, however, her uniquely fashioned brand of ‘grunge pop’ – with its viciously expressive underpinnings of emotional turbulence – casts her as perhaps the most interesting of her contemporaries.
Secret Meeting score: 79