It takes a hell of a songwriter to so tightly wrap gruesome bodily things — blood, aches and pains, discoloration, wounds, tears — in sheer, shimmery pop hooks. And when the songwriter is just 22 years old, this feels like an even more impressive skill. This is Soccer Mommy’s (née Sophie Allison) sweet spot. Soccer Mommy’s 2018 debut Clean was our introduction to Allison’s distinct blend of brutal and bright. Youthful, yet with a mystifying, innate wisdom, Allison continues to masterfully harness the excruciating experience of growing up, in all its humiliation and intensity, on her second album, color theory.
The added murkiness and distortion to her crystalline, angelic vocals is especially fitting for the subject matter Allison explores on color theory. She is astoundingly self-assured as she confronts the mortality of her terminally ill mother, the cruel loneliness of rejection, and the bleak, empty numbness of depression. Still, you won’t encounter a more sonically pleasing take on such things. Allison’s ear for melody and knack for crafting a chorus that really catches rivals the stuff she likely grew up on (crossover pop stars like Taylor Swift, and the emo-pop rock of the mid-aughts).
color theory is an album so honeyed it almost succeeds in masking its cloak of jet black darkness. “circle the drain” uses thick, twangy guitar tones to add a springy bounce to a tune that is ultimately about wanting to disappear completely. “bloodstream,” the album’s opening track, conveys that familiar nostalgia for the days when we didn’t know better through a driving melody and soft harmonies that ebb and flow. Memories of innocence, blooming flowers, and rosy cheeks are intercut with an older, tainted version of herself she doesn’t recognize. “yellow is the color of her eyes” and “lucy” are hazy melancholic beauties, even as they find Allison battling with feelings of grief and guilt, and her inner demons.
Allison crafts cinematic moments that play out vividly, particularly on the quieter solemn standouts like “night swimming” and “up the walls.” The songs on color theory tap into the angsty coming-of-age period when the adults in our lives begin to become fully formed human beings to us, rather than just abstract figures of authority; when a broken heart feels like the end of the world; when it feels like life will just never get better. She brilliantly mines the complexities of trying to be better, to have more self-esteem, and to navigate the agony of adolescence.