Nostalgia is one of music’s most popular tools. Artists from every genre of music weaponize the nostalgia of artists, albums, eras and styles of the past to take listeners back to a specific time in their lives. Maybe it’s a time that’s simpler, maybe it’s a time that’s happier or maybe it’s just an escape from modernity. In the modern alternative rock space, few artists do this better than Sophie Allison, also known as Soccer Mommy, who injects massive doses of callbacks and nostalgic resonance into her newest LP “color theory.”
Soccer Mommy, the 22-year-old alternative rocker, got her start after releasing “Songs for the Recently Sad” on the music sharing site Bandcamp in 2015. This landed her a record deal with Fat Possum Records, with her debut LP, “Clean,” dropping in 2018. On “color theory,” Soccer Mommy is back with more nostalgia-driven, moody ballads, which have been the foundation of her career for the last five years.
The album opens with simple acoustic guitar layering on “bloodstream,” which she uses as a canvas for her layered harmonious, high-pitched vocals. The vocal melody floats dreamily before the acoustic guitar is swapped for an electric guitar, and the drum kit pattern impels into the instrumental mix.
Late ‘90s and early 2000s sounds are heavily borrowed in “color theory.” The influence of artists like Jesse McCartney, Kelly Clarkson, Ashlee Simpson and even Hillary Duff permeate the album. This early 2000s inspiration often leaves “color theory” feeling like a time capsule of Soccer Mommy’s adolescence.
The 10-song album seems to be divided into three acts, each act tied to a specific color — blue, yellow or gray. Blue has songs like “circle the drain,” which implements heavy uses of electric guitar distortion and weighted, emotional lyrics about depression. With “royal screw up” Soccer Mommy discusses a failing relationship and coming to terms with the fact that a relationship can’t be the answer to every problem. She likens her own experience with love to a fairy tale, turning the common love song trope on its head by deciding to be the princess, the prince and the dragon all at once.
With psychedelic vocals gliding across the heavily reverberated acoustic guitar plucking, “night swimming” continues these themes. The color blue is taken much more literally in this song, with blue water as a metaphor for depression, comparing the coldness of the water to the isolation she often feels.
The second act is the color yellow, which focuses on anxiety and paranoia. The dark and austere lyrics on songs like “crawling in my skin” are juxtaposed by bouncy drums, vocoded vocal layers and a song structure that calls back to early efforts by Paramore, fusing alternative rock composition with lyrics and melodies jam-packed with pop sensibilities.
The album’s high point is “yellow is the color of her eyes.” Soccer Mommy croons about her mother’s cancer diagnosis — something the singer has never discussed prior to this album. It’s a shockingly vulnerable moment for an already-introspective album, leaving a lump in my throat after every listen.
The album’s final act is the color gray, which touches on topics of grief and loss. Sobering electric guitar plucking and hazy synthesizers on “stain” show the singer recounting another break up, and how it feels to lose yourself in another person. Ironically, the guitar plucking is nearly identical to the intro guitar riff of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” once again calling on the early 2000s songs for inspiration.
The album’s closing song “gray light” finds Soccer Mommy opening up about death, and her fears about what happens after death. The song uses a washed-out minimal electronic drum pattern as its backbone. This allows the singer to intimately deliver her haunting stanzas. The album’s conclusion feels like a cathartic closing of a chapter in the singer’s life.
With clear themes, deeply genuine lyrics and truly breathtaking vocal performances, Soccer Mommy has created something that feels both old and new with “color theory.”