Soccer Mommy unleashes flurry of vivid melancholy on ‘Color Theory’

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Don’t let the artist’s name fool you — Soccer Mommy doesn’t drive around in a minivan, chartering kids to and from after-school games. What she does instead is produce sad, angsty indie music in the best way possible. Color Theory, her second record, doesn’t stray from her brand, but instead elevates it with a soft and low-key yet powerful and emotional atmosphere.

Despite Color Theory being only her second record, 22-year-old Sophie Allison, known by her stage name Soccer Mommy, isn’t a newcomer to the indie scene. She has toured with Vampire Weekend, Slowdive, Mitski and Kacey Musgraves, to name a few major artists, cementing herself in the indie music industry as an up-and-coming artist.

The overall sound on Color Theory is thus reminiscent of an extremely toned-down work from indie artist the Japanese House. The record is mainly acoustic, and doesn’t feature as much bass as her debut album, Clean. But surprisingly, the bass isn’t missed as much as fans would have expected. To match the subdued nature of the record, every song title on the album is stylized in all lowercase letters.

The record’s songs are split into three different color schemes: blue, yellow and gray. Each color represents a specific mood, with blue being depression, yellow being anxiety and gray being death. The lyrics bring listeners along on a journey of longing and attempting to hold oneself together while the world rips at the very fiber of one’s being. To say the least, the record is heart-wrenching, marked by Allison’s dreamy, drawling voice. 

“Bloodstream,” the first song on the record, is ominous, bright and sad all in one. Allison sings about the fleeting happiness of childhood dissolving into a world of sadness. “And happiness is like a firefly on summer evenings,” she croons, evoking reflection into the past.

One of the record’s top songs is “Royal Screw Up,” a track that, on its face, is not much to muse about. After two solid listens, however, it burrows its way into listeners’ brains and hearts. The song is perfectly raw, particularly in the vocals. It crafts a scene in which Allison is sitting right in front of the listener, singing her heart out. The song has a slow buildup, with painfully deep lyrics.

“Up the Walls” is arguably the most beautiful song on the record. It’s tearful, dripping with regret and apology. Allison’s vocals are nothing short of chilling, especially when she sings the lyrics, “’Cause no one’s really known me like you did when we were young.” The vocals are soft and dismissive, while still carrying significant weight.

“Gray Light” is a lovely ending to Color Theory. At the two-minute mark, Allison gives listeners a surprise, switching up the vocals with a literal nostalgia filter, complete with a tape rewind and loads of fuzz. The song ends abruptly, shocking listeners out of the dream-like state they’ve most likely been in for the past 44 minutes of the album.

While Clean, featuring hit songs “Cool” and “Your Dog,” will always be the gold standard for Soccer Mommy, Color Theory, with more rawness and intimacy, has more than enough potential to top it. It’s a beautifully nostalgic work, and it’s beautifully devastating as well. If you thought you were devoid of all emotion, give Color Theory a listen and you’ll promptly wake back up, sobbing. The record screams ultimate 1990s, down to the vintage video game-themed album cover.

It’s easy for soft songs to become dull and boring after several plays within an album, but Soccer Mommy’s production draws listeners into the songs, enveloping them like a warm blanket. Something about her voice and guitar keeps listeners engaged, and this alone is reason enough to praise Color Theory as indie’s newest gem.

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].