Towards the beginning of Soccer Mommy’s new album, Color Theory, she gives a startling confession: “I am the princess of screwing up.” The singer-songwriter, real name Sophie Allison, is just two years into her twenties, but she sounds as if she’s been navigating early adulthood for decades, wading through the waters of depression and sadness while fighting a few demons along the way. “My world is sinking,” she sings on “Royal Screw Up,” “and I am the captain of it all.”
Some of the album’s tracks share the same titles as songs from the Nineties and early aughts (“Night Swimming,” “Crawling in My Skin”) and it’s hardly unintentional: Allison, who was born in 1997, aimed to make Color Theory sound like her childhood — a time when teens had translucent iMacs and Tamagotchis instead of TikTok. The nostalgia can be felt all over the record, from the glitchy production to its cover, which mocks a cassette cartridge in neon yellow font (the “Batteries Not Included” note only makes it more charming).
The album is divided into three colored sections: blue for sadness, yellow for illness, grey for loss. Happiness is a fleeting emotion — if felt at all — and on “Bloodstream,” she compares it to a flying insect à la Lana Del Rey, only this time it’s a firefly, slipping through her fingers on a warm summer evening. The euphoric, distorted guitar riffs of “Circle the Drain” can be particularly deceiving, as Allison sings about trying to stay strong “for my love, my family and friends/But I’m so tired of faking.” It’s arguably the best track on the album, an anthem for Gen Z melancholy.
“Yellow Is the Color of Her Eyes,” the sparkling, seven-minute centerpiece of the record, shows Allison wrestling with her mother’s battle with cancer. “Loving you isn’t enough,” she sings, her languid vocals delivering each line against somber pedal steel. “You’ll still be deep in the ground when it’s done.” Through her vulnerability, she grapples with loss, realizing that she’ll never come out of it entirely unscathed. On the album’s closer, “Gray Light,” she lays it down: “I can’t lose it/I’m watching my mother drown.”
For Color Theory, Allison recruited producer Gabe Wax, who she previously worked with her breakout 2018 LP Clean; she also chose to cut the album with her live band, a decision that ultimately blunts the intimate, visceral edge previously felt on Clean. The lead single, “Lucy” is a prime example, as Allison personifies the devil over watered-down hooks and repetitive lyrics. Color Theory could have been a true indie-rock stunner if more of its songs hit with the same individually distinct charge as the ones on her debut. Still, Allison’s nostalgic sadness suggests a bright musical future.