Soccer Mommy Is Timeless on 'Sometimes, Forever'
Published Jun 20, 2022Gracing many a year-end best-of list, color theory, Sophie Allison's sophomore album as Soccer Mommy, was hard to avoid at the end of 2020 — not that anyone would want to. A decisive step forward from 2018's already notable Clean, it established the NYC-based artist as a talented songwriter apart from the already burgeoning wave of newcomers exploring (and sometimes just retreading) '90s grunge and alternative sounds. Those albums were produced by indie expert Gabe Wax (the War on Drugs, Deerhunter, Fleet Foxes), a smart, welcome-to-the-big-leagues sort of option — but for Allison to go with Daniel Lopatin for her latest, Sometimes, Forever, is vastly more interesting.
Fresh off his tense, claustrophobic soundtrack for Uncut Gems, and his production work on the Weekend's Dawn FM, Lopatin has a career's worth of envelope-pushing electronic releases as Oneohtrix Point Never to bring to bear as well, and he pulls a spectral quality from Allison's turn-of-the-century vibes that hovers in the background, like the era's shimmering ghost. Expect to be reading their names at the end of this year, too.
There's a near perfect mix of reference and originality here, in both the songwriting and production, indulging our nostalgia without insulting us with the obvious gestures. It's a tough balance, a matter of judgment —of taste — and it doesn't always necessarily accompany talent and musicianship. The hooks treat the listener with respect also. Allison has a real knack for transitions (the traditional home of hooks), twisting choruses out of verses in ways you aren't expecting.
The diminutively-titled "newdemo" is exemplary in this regard, its chorus delicately swirling in from nowhere on a cascade of descending strings. Its unexpected arrival in a completely different key is quietly explosive, and will make you stop what you're doing. Other highlights crowd from all directions. Early single "Bones" remains potent, with Allison's bell-like voice ringing out over plain-clothes acoustic strumming, and slow-rolling follow-up "With U" opens with cool, spangled synth stabs straight from the OPN soundbank.
There are also well-curated detours into adjacent styles. "Unholy Affliction" gives solid NIN energy for instance, and the shambling beat and atmospherics of "Darkness Forever" are reminiscent of UNKLE. There's an abject, desultory energy to these tracks that was very much at the beating heart of the '90s — the feeling of a legitimate burden borne with dignity — and Allison proves herself a kindred spirit in this regard once again, writing deeply personal lyrics dealing with loss and depression, but never in a sentimental or performative way.
It makes the more immediate sugar rush moments hit harder too, like the celebratory twin-guitar soloing in "Don't Ask Me," which (perhaps smartly) buoys the album's second half; overall it's a good mix of brooding and persevering. Sometimes, Forever is a rich and varied album, with ultramodern production that never tramples the influences at play. (Loma Vista)