Alternative and angsty
Sophie Allison has been making a lot of noise for herself lately. The twenty-year-old who performs under the name Soccer Mommy, has garnered praise from NPR and Pitchfork for her debut album Clean. Allison is a Nashville native who has had a steady stream of music since her inception in 2015. She started out small with a few home-produced recordings which she uploaded to Bandcamp and eventually released her EP Collection last year.
Clean is produced by Gabe Wax and mixed by Ali Chant, who have worked with War on Drugs and Perfume Genius respectively. A lot of Allison’s influences are obvious on this record like late ’90s and early ’00s alternative bands such as Weezer. The overall sound still feels like one notch up from a typical Bandcamp release. The vocals are raw and rough-sounding sometimes as if some of her tentative, pitchy demos made it to the final mix. Rock guitars in all their fuzzy and jangly forms cover the record. Most of the production is lackluster, only serving the basic function of supporting Allison’s songwriting.
While it’s true that Allison comes from an honest and vulnerable point of view lyrically for this album, most of it comes off like an emotional teen who learned enough simple guitar chords to put her angsty lyrics to song. If one can get past the petulant whine that she takes on for a lot of the singing, they’ll find she quickly tires out some banal themes of heartbreak, insecurity and playing the victim in love. Like a schoolgirl’s diary, the lyrics and stories she produces aren’t enough to be compelling for an entire album.
The only stand-out part on the second track “Cool” is the catchy sing-along chorus. The lyrics tell a story of a jealous lover very similar to the sentiment in “Last Girl,” found later in the album. It’s got a hazy, dreamy guitar sound that fills out the lighthearted chorus. “Your Dog” was the first single released for this project and probably shows, in the best light, what Allison does well. On the track, her almost frustrated vocals and edgy lyrics meet with a Nirvana-like guitar riff. It’s nostalgic for an age when alternative rock was first emerging. “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog that you drag around,” she vents in the first line. The track continues to build up with layers of distortion and noise coming to an emotional breaking point.
“Last Girl” finds Allison wishing she could be just like her boyfriend’s ex and contains the most elementary lyrics. With lines like “She’s so cool and the boys all drool,” the track is possibly spared by punkish energy in the drums. “Scorpio Rising” borrows heavily from the chorus melody of “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus and there’s nothing of interest in the instrumentation to distract from that ripoff. “Wildflowers” finishes off the album with a sleepy, primarily acoustic ballad.
Clean is a record that, if nothing else, establishes Soccer Mommy as a new voice in the indie rock scene and will have many music publications interested in seeing where she chooses to take her voice in the future.