Soccer Mommy, “Clean” (Fat Possum)

Love is no paradise in the songs of Sophie Allison, 20, who records as Soccer Mommy. It’s a realm of misunderstandings, disappointments, unfulfilled longings and everyday betrayals, and Soccer Mommy’s songs recount them in a haze of acceptance and resentment.

Soccer Mommy joins a wavelet of young women — along with Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, Mitski and others — who are using gentle voices, pristine melodies and the expressive imperfections of indie rock for songs that probe vulnerability and trauma, self-sabotage and self-preservation. They are continuing a long-standing role of female singer-songwriters as pop’s bearers of emotional sensitivity and catharsis. But in the era of SoundCloud and Bandcamp, they need no one’s help or permission to go public. Whether anyone will listen is another question, but Soccer Mommy got through.

Allison began posting home-recorded songs to Bandcamp as Soccer Mommy in 2015, during the summer when she was about to leave her hometown, Nashville, for college at New York University. She has since released two digital EPs and moved back to Nashville.

“Clean” — with nine songs and an instrumental interlude — is billed as Soccer Mommy’s debut album, Allison’s first to be conceived as a whole and recorded in a studio with backup musicians and a producer. It takes pains not to be at all slick. Allison’s voice often droops a little flat, instruments are hand-played rather than programmed and the mix is proudly smudgy.

But even as it clings to indie modesty, “Clean” greatly expands the scope of Allison’s songs in both words and music. She’s not just sweet, sad and lovelorn anymore. She’s riled enough, amid the tangle of guitar lines in “Your Dog.” And she’s blunt and skeptical enough to face her insecurities about whether she could possibly live up to her boyfriend’s ex in “Last Girl.”

Infidelity also looms, in “Flaw” and “Scorpio Rising.” She’s wildly attracted to the guy in “Scorpio Rising,” but she also clearly sees him eyeballing someone who’s “bubbly and sweet like a Coca-Cola.” In “Flaw,” she’s the one who strays.

On Soccer Mommy’s previous band-style recordings, songs tended to stick to one sound from start to finish: a watery guitar strum, a certain band beat. But “Clean” is full of changes, newly willing to use contrast and dynamics.

Both clear-eyed and passionate, Allison is growing up in public, unabashed.

JON PARELES, New York Times


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