Soccer Mommy is the brainchild of 22-year-old Sophie Allison, who uses ’90s-styled indie alt-rock arrangements to communicate thoughts and feelings of someone twice her age. In the last few years she’s quickly gained popularity after releasing her last album, Clean, in 2018. It was home to many awesome tunes, including “Your Dog,” which highlighted Allison’s guitar mastery, and “Cool,” with its themes of high school jealousy and an impossibly infectious chorus. So where does Soccer Mommy go from here? Color Theory certainly has more of Allison’s signature introspection and alt-rock virtuosity, but this time she’s also doubling down on the daunting and difficult feelings in her life.
Color Theory kicks off with “Bloodstream,” a mid-tempo rock track on which Allison talks about the fleeting nature of happiness and how while it can often be in view, it’s difficult to actually reach out and grasp. This feeling is reflected through a pattern of guitar lines that start out fairly straightforward but eventually meld with keys and twist into a curious contraption, leaving listeners to commiserate with Allison about her struggles to find contentment. Her voice routinely crests above the instrumentation, further hitting home the feeling of someone repeatedly reaching for something she wants in life but not quite making it.
Next up is “Circle The Drain,” which continues Allison’s feelings of malaise. She doesn’t understand why she keeps falling apart, because on the surface things seem like they should be fine. This juxtaposition is shown by contrasting the rather sunny and forward-moving instrumentation with her repetition of the words “round and around” in the chorus.
After the strong opening with “Bloodstream” and “Circle The Drain,” the middle of the album takes a bit of a downturn. “Royal Screw Up,” “Night Swimming” and “Crawling In My Skin” bring the energy levels down a bit, and this lulls the momentum. It’s not that they don’t do a good job of communicating the depth of Allison’s complicated headspace, but the compositions of the songs surrounding the feelings don’t help her feelings jump off the page.
However, once Soccer Mommy rounds the corner into the back half of the Color Theory, the strengths of her songwriting shine through once again. “Yellow Is The Color Of Her Eyes” is a slow jam that makes use of floating and reverberating guitars to slowly drift lazily through her thoughts and memories. We, as guests inside her head, can feel the aching and longing that she experiences while being away from her loved ones, especially when she goes up a note on the chorus: “But it’s never made me feel good inside.” Eventually the song evolves into a colorful sprig of flowering growth and devolving into a dirge of guitar feedback that slowly curls up into nothingness.
Another highlight is single “Lucy,” which Soccer Mommy released as a teaser last year. It shows a different side of Allison’s songwriting: She makes use of some twisted off-kilter guitar whines that stretch across the landscape. “Lucy” is clearly a stand-in for the devil here, and Allison struggles with doing the right thing when confronted with temptations. The pairing of the unconventional guitar techniques with relatable storytelling make for one of her best tracks to date.
In the end, Color Theory accomplishes its goals almost too well. Allison is lonely, sad, regretful and doing her best to get through it all. When she pairs these feelings with a composition that’s similarly lonely, sad and regretful, the end result can feel a bit muted and gray. But when she pairs those feelings with some of her more interesting and unique instrumentation, like on “Bloodstream,” “Circle The Drain,” “Yellow Is The Color Of Her Eyes” and “Lucy,” she creates moments greater than the sum of their parts. This allows plenty of catharsis, healing and growth to spring forth. Here’s hoping that Soccer Mommy keeps on healing and growing—and sharing it with the rest of us.