The indie pop artist’s newest album has authentic lyrics, but loses momentum in the second half.
Female-led indie rock groups seem to have blossomed in the last couple of years, with artists like Japanese Breakfast, Snail Mail and Clairo blasting onto the scene and quickly gaining raving fans. One of the youngest of these artists, Sophie Allison, better known as Soccer Mommy, has released her fourth album “color theory” on Loma Vista Recordings.
Recording “color theory” gave her a chance to utilize more resources than any previous musical effort. Having gone from recording in her dorm room years ago to having full access to a studio gives her a large amount of control over the music; this album is authentically her own. The result of this opportunity is a heartfelt album that is much darker and fine-tuned than her 2018 release “Clean.”
The opening track on “color theory,” “bloodstream”, is one of many wherein Soccer Mommy describes her experience with depression, singing “There’s someone talking in my forehead / That says ‘I’ll never be enough.’” The lyrics feel genuine, and Allison only goes deeper into her personal struggles on later tracks. The song “circle the drain,” one of the singles released before the album, reflects the sedentary episodes she goes through in moments of sadness. She is “Watching TV alone / ‘Til my body starts aching / And I think there’s a mold in my brain / Spreading down all the way”; she is slowly becoming more isolated as she falls down the metaphorical drain.
Her depressive tendencies coalesce in “royal screw up,” which contains the hopeless lines “And I want an answer / To all my problems / But there’s not an answer / I am the problem for me, now and always.” Allison’s brutal self awareness has spiraled into self hate; the problems she laments all throughout the album are ultimately her own doing.
The album is centered around the seven-minute track “yellow is the color of her eyes,” a beautifully melancholy song about Allison’s sick mother. Swirling guitar licks paired with gut-wrenching lyrics make this track the absolute best on the album. It leans in most heavily to the dream-like sound most tracks on the album try to evoke.
In the final part of the album, Allison confronts her own mortality and the mortality of her increasingly sick mother. Many tracks do feel like filler, with “stain” being particularly boring. There are still high points, such as the grim line “I’m watching my mother drown” closing out the album. However, these final tracks do begin to lose the personal and direct emotionality that made me love the first half.
Allison has claimed in interviews the title of the album is a reference to the three colors, meaning moods, of the album: blue, yellow and gray. The album begins with the blue tracks, which represent debilitating sadness and depression. Yellow songs like the seven-minute track represent the anxiety and self-doubt within her. The album’s final handful of tracks are gray, dealing with mortality and death, particularly the ongoing sickness of Allison’s mother.
Musically, the album does use relatively simple melodies and chord structures, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a boring listen. Rhythmic guitar lines are constantly fluttering in the background, and the new use of digital instrumentation provides some well-needed variety. The first three tracks in particular use catchy rhythms and varied drum machines to create interesting songs. However, in the second half of the album, these tools often feel underused in favor of overly simplistic tracks.
Overall, this album is certainly worth a listen, even if just for the amazing first half. It may not hold up through repeat listens due to the derivative songwriting, but Allison’s vulnerability and authentic way of expressing her sadness should not be missed.