Clean - Soccer Mommy
“Only what you wanted for a little while” is the haunting refrain from “Still Clean,” the opener of Soccer Mommy’s new album Clean. Soccer Mommy is the alias of Nashville musician Sophie Allison, who makes music that is scarring in the sense that it sticks with you long after it’s over. Her tracks on Clean betray the album title in the way that they portray the mess of relationships.
Allison excels in pushing the ‘90s indie rock sound that she is often cited for beyond its boundaries. Dapples of electronica and detuned guitar riffs work their way into this record, reflecting the many facets of our memories. Her music is transportative, dropping the listener smack-dab into the middle of her experiences.
“Cool” has a dark grittiness to it as it swaggers along tunefully. Jealousy and bitterness are key to this record, revealing the scaly underbelly of our desires. On this song, Allison expresses her contempt for another woman, saying, “She won’t ever love no boy / She’ll treat you like a fucking toy / She’ll break your heart and steal your joy, like a criminal.” She leaves you with an unmistakable feeling of longing, how we all oftentimes wish things could be different.
One of the main singles of the album is “Your Dog.” It begins with an intro that’s reminiscent of the post-punk sound of early Interpol. Allison’s music is addictive, worming its way in listeners’ heads by virtue of how catchy and harmonious it is. “Your Dog” is an open revolt against relational bondage. The opening verse is a knockout one as it says, “I don't wanna be your fucking dog / That you drag around / A collar on my neck tied to a pole / Leave me in the freezing cold.” A main theme of Cleanis moving on, and Allison translates this well into her music.
The album’s undoubted centerpiece is “Blossom (Wasting All My Time).” It’s the fullest song on this album, as it chronicles Allison finding release in someone she truly loves. It’s drenched in ambient sounds full of feeling. It feels like a spiritual companion to Sufjan Stevens' “Should Have Known Better”: both songs decidedly move on from sorrow into something hopeful. While it’s easy to draw general comparisons to the music of Soccer Mommy, Allison is crafting something that lies just outside her contemporaries as she explores the edges of our memories.
We all want to believe that a certain someone is thinking about us. In her song “Skin” she says, “I want to be the one who keeps you up at night / Cling to the memory of how I brushed your sides / 'Cause I'm just a puzzle piece trying to fit just right / So hard to be someone who's stuck inside your mind.” A lot of times, we let our want to impress someone dictate how we act. That person “gets under our skin,” so to speak. Allison’s music is embedded with missives like these, revealing some of her own life.
One of the great deep cuts on this record is “Scorpio Rising.” The humidity of a “southern summer” feels tangible on this album as Allison sets scenes of lazy days outside. A memorable segment from this song is when she sings, “And kiss me in the park / We'll meet up after dark / And we'll talk until morning hits the windshield / And paints yellow lines on the field.” It’s highly evocative, and her ability to put the listener in her head separates her from so many other artists. Comparable to the rock band Yo La Tengo, Allison is able to express so much emotion in something as short as a four-minute song.
Clean is full of beautiful noise, echoing sentiments that come to us across our lifetimes. Allison’s made something that’s a lot to digest, but is wholly beautiful.