There’s nothing two-dimensional about pain; you can’t capture sadness with an algorithmic playlist, though many have tried. You’ll find Soccer Mommy on a lot of them. Sophie Allison broke out aged only 20 with her brilliant studio debut, ‘Clean’, in 2018. She wrote sharply and memorably about breakups and doomed love in the midst of depression; yet her raw guitar songwriting couldn’t fully illustrate the depth of darkness bubbling beneath it.
She now releases her third album, ‘Sometimes, Forever’, on which she was produced by electronic innovator Oneohtrix Point Never, aka Daniel Lopatin, for the first time. Here, she delves further into the shadows; into futility, masochism, and morbidity. This time around, Allison’s songwriting and Lopatin’s production are on a scale that captures those complexities.
Several songs are haunted by Oneohtrix Point Never’s unsettling electronics. ‘Unholy Affliction’ is glitchy and lurching, while on ‘Darkness Forever’ they use menacing synths, a grimly slick bassline and a stumbling drum machine beat to build the album’s creepiest atmosphere. Yet it’s also Soccer Mommy’s biggest-sounding record yet, and Allison’s pop-minded melodies – her greatest strength – have their moment on the choruses of tracks like ‘Shotgun’ and ‘With U’.
Lyrically, it’s equally three-dimensional. ‘With U’ explores the painful vulnerability of being in a relationship, while ‘Shotgun’ details the thrill of obsessive love. ‘Darkness Forever’ plunges into a harrowing suicide scene. The idea is discussed too on ‘Still’, where Allison describes the possibility of ending her life as a “crutch”. “I’ll never jump,” she assures the listener, but seems to find it comforting to stand on the bridge.
On ‘Unholy Affliction’, we get a glimpse of how a gruelling music career can wear an artist down: “I’m tired of the money, and all of the talking at me”. On ‘Don’t Ask Me’, she sings, “My will is gone and I don’t feel a thing” – and this is the album’s most upbeat track. In comparison to all this pain, numbness comes as a victory.
The combination of these intensely confessional lyrics and the musical exercises in mood and atmosphere lends the album a balance between control and catharsis. Whether she’s exorcising demons or shaking hands with them, Allison explores in ever more depth how to channel that most potently. The reductive tags that may have previously been assigned to Soccer Mommy – sad, chill, nostalgic – have no foothold here. This is nuanced, purposeful songwriting from an artist growing in power.
Release date: June 24
Record label: Loma Vista