Summertime sadness is here, and Sophie Allison, better known as Soccer Mommy, is ready. With lazily strummed guitar, echoey shoegaze atmospherics and a voice rich with apocalyptic melancholy, her third studio album Sometimes, Forever, released June 24, embraces nihilistic despair. If Allison’s 2020 release Color Theory was a haunting self-portrait of isolation and loss, then her 2022 project is a self-aware, supernatural drama that makes peace with a bleak future.
Heavily inspired by horror films, Allison leans into spine-chilling symbolism. The album begins unassumingly with “Bones,” a simple song with a catchy melody about yearning for the good times in an old relationship. However, by the time they reach third track “Unholy Affliction,” listeners are already knee-deep in disturbing religious imagery and biting critiques of materialism. “Ooh, I taste it on my tongue/ It’s all in my bones and in my blood/ So carve me up and let the colors run,” Allison sings with an unaffected distance that perfectly captures the apathy of the zeitgeist. The heavy percussion nearly drowns her out at times, but she doesn’t seem to care.
Allison continues to crucify the insatiable greed of rich elites on “Newdemo,” lamenting the neverending sludge of work that exists under capitalism. It’s a theme not unlike Mitski’s “Working for the Knife,” though Allison peppers biblical references into her exploration of humanity’s demise. In the end, she accepts the uncertainty of her fate and the futility of struggle: “But what is a dream but a hope you hold onto/ A lie that you wish would come true,” she sings.
Daniel Lopatin of the electronic project Oneohtrix Point Never deepens the album’s sound with textured, ’90s-inspired production, and nowhere is his influence more clear than on “Darkness Forever.” The distorted guitar is reminiscent of Kurt Cobain, while the eerily calm, innocent vocals are similar to Grimes. Fixated on the infamous death of 20th-century poet Sylvia Plath, Allison flirts with suicidal tendencies and self-destruction, singing, “Thirst from an artist/ Killed by her insides/ She tried to set the evil on fire.”
Often, it seems that the darkness of her lyrics is at odds with the softness of her melodies, but this tonal disconnect somehow works to Allison’s advantage. “Feel It All the Time” reconciles the anxiety of getting older with the untapped potential of the future, and “Fire in the Driveway” contrasts imagery of fire and ice — both of which can burn — as Allison mourns a mutually toxic relationship. She turns an obvious metaphor on its head, noting that fire can also mean rebirth and renewal. “Following Eyes” tells a ghost story about the creeping feeling that something bad is about to happen, but Allison’s surprisingly uplifting attitude indicates she knows the darkness won’t last.
For all its experimental flair and artful ennui, Sometimes, Forever is not without its faults. “Shotgun,” the album’s lead single about losing oneself in love, is perhaps the least interesting of all 11 songs. Evidently engineered to be a radio-friendly earworm, it could be easily mistaken for any other popular yet unoriginal indie hit. Final track “Still” is also somewhat repetitive and cheesy, providing an acoustic, Disney Channel-like ending to an album that cannot be wrapped up nicely in a pretty bow. Still, the song contains a simple metaphor that sums up the essence of the album: “I don’t know how to feel things small/ It’s a tidal wave or nothing at all,” Allison sings.
Though rife with the urge to give into apathy and the nagging idea that nothing matters, Sometimes, Forever is anything but emotionless. With Lopatin’s help, Allison effectively marries ’90s alt-rock nostalgia with futuristic synth-pop, producing the perfect soundtrack for the apocalypse. When the end of the world arrives, Allison will be ready.