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Album #49: Soccer Mommy – color theory

  • Released: 2020
  • Origin: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
  • Label: Loma Vista
  • Best Track: yellow is the color of her eyes

With her 2018 debut Clean, Sophie Allison – aka Soccer Mommy (two words a Brit never says) – brought out one of my favourite albums of the decade. I’m not sure why I loved it so much, as it doesn’t tick many of the boxes of what I like to hear in music – it was a bit quiet for a start! And as a vocalist, I think she’s kind of ordinary.

I think it was just the rawness and openness, and her lyrics – sometimes rich in imagery like on the gut-wrenching ‘Wildflowers‘, other times as matter of fact as with the grungy ‘Skin‘ – that attracted me to this accomplished young songwriter.

Of the singles leading up to the release of color theory (the album name and all its tracks are in lower case), I liked ‘lucy’ without being blown away by it, but I was awestruck by ‘yellow is the color of her eyes’. An achingly sad song even if you’re only half listening to the lyrics, the gravity of it only hits home when you realise that nobody’s eyes should really be yellow.

The song is about the ailing health of Allison’s mother, and her thoughts about this while being on tour. The riff that precedes the verse is a harp I believe, but it sounds like a Wurlitzer – an instrument that evokes nostalgia and a sense of lost time and leisure.

I wish someone in the YouTube comments section hadn’t compared it with Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ (both songs mention the colour and feature the singer walking on a beach, but that’s about the end of the similarities). In fact, the entire comments section for that video is pretty dire, I should know by now not to read them!

As I expected, it is probably the best track on this album, but that’s not to say it isn’t a really focused, well-rounded follow-up from this bedroom-pop sensation. There’s a bit more thickness to the songs – Clean often felt like it was just her and her guitar – but the songs retain their rawness and intimacy despite their fuller sound.

‘nightswimming’ is a beautiful and tear-jerking tale of lost love and declining self-worth, the clothing refrain of ‘a sinking stone’ contrasting with the early theme of staying afloat. The cool and summery ‘crawling in my skin’ is one of the more upbeat numbers, and almost sounds like part two of ‘Skin’ from the last album, while closer ‘gray light’, on an album where colour is a key theme, conveys a sad sense of it running out. Has an album ever ended with a bleaker sudden stop than the line “I’m watching my mother drown”?

This is a wonderful follow-up from Soccer Mommy, who is maturing her songwriting without losing the youthful fragility that makes her music tug at the heartstrings.

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