Words by James Robertson
Sophie Allison is Soccer Mommy just as Will Toledo is Car Seat Headrest and Kevin Parker is Tame Impala. These are all monikers that these artists record under – solo projects orchestrated by an individual, allowing them to create the music they want. In Allison’s case, with Clean, we are treated to one of the most beautifully captivating albums of the year so far.
Clean seems to have been crafted from a place of deep longing and emotion. I wouldn’t be surprised if Allison was literally tearing pages from her diary to share with us. Whilst the lyrical content is undoubtedly powerful, it is the presentation of the record that really makes it stand out. Produced by Gabe Wax (The War On Drugs, School of Seven Bells), you can really hear the guitar shine and the tightness of the instrumentation as a whole. It’s through this expansion in space and sound that the songs comes alive. Allison has noted that this album is her stepping out of the bedroom and into the studio. You can certainly hear the more polished sound that comes with that transition on tracks like ‘Your Dog’ which all the while preserves those lo-fi sensibilities of her earlier releases.
This is a record that is most definitely rich in metaphors and allegory from the title alone. The idea of staying clean while other people (ex-lovers in particular) get dirty is laced throughout the album. There’s an allusion to coming clean, with Allison finally being able to get everything off her chest. Opening track ‘Still Clean’ draws you straight into the world you’re going to be occupying for the next 30 minutes. With husky and almost strained vocals, Allison keeps your attention focused on the story of waiting around for someone in the hope they still want you, but they keep moving while you’re stood still. It lures you in slowly, wrapping you in a blanket of almost-romances and just before the swelling orchestral strings of ‘Blossoms (Wasting All My Time)’ has you on the verge of tears, the upbeat power pop from ‘Last Girl’ brings you into a dazzling new part of Soccer Mommy’s oeuvre.
In the age of streaming and playlists, we regularly under-appreciate the art of curating an album. The tracks we hear on Clean are selected and arranged in a particular order to illustrate Allison’s vision and the end result is an album with the perfect balance of ups and downs. Allison piles on the heartbreak with stripped back tracks such as ‘Flaw’ which really let her lyrics and vocal shine. Yet it is how such tracks are interwoven with the exciting, heavier material like grunge-inspired ‘Scorpio Rising’, which has Allison spitting out her words and piercing through the cacophony of noise with her vocals, that really shows how well curated this album is.
I often find that I associate most albums with a specific season or time of the day. Clean would definitely be a twilight album – music that you listen to just as the sun goes down, as spring turns into summer or specifically, in Allison’s case, as adolescence turns into adulthood. This is a collection of songs about love, loss and comparing yourself to your boyfriend’s ex, an album of flitting moments that occupy everyone’s life. Much has been made of Allison being only 20 years old and wise beyond her years but, if Allison’s new record is anything to go by, 20-year-olds are some of the wisest people around.
CLEAN BY SOCCER MOMMY RELEASES THIS FRIDAY (2/3) VIA FAT POSSUM. PRE-ORDER HERE:
Lead photo: Shervin Lainez