When you shake the dust off an essential album and hold it in your hands, the feather light feel of the vinyl couldn’t possibly warn of its true weight in power and potency. Yet for all of the old classics and modern masterpieces to survive and arrive, there are few songwriters who are able to eloquently portray the adventure, longing and doubt of young adulthood. Although just as the “In My Room” era confessionals of Brian Wilson stunningly summarize what those first real brushes with the world can feel like, Soccer Mommy’s newest LP, Clean, captures an age in all of its devastation and splendor. But it’s not their sound or style of expression that makes two artists who are so different feel somehow, in some small way connected – it’s the way they turn their melancholy and vulnerability into something that wrings beauty out of a pain that is blinding and new. Of course, when Wilson likened his room to another world where he could go and tell his secrets, he was paying tribute to a sacred teenage space turned sanctuary. Generations later, Sophie Allison would become a songwriter on the same hallowed ground, making music and sharing secrets under the name Soccer Mommy from inside the walls of her Nashville bedroom. Now twenty-years-old and having just released her true debut on Fat Possum Records, Allison’s songs can’t help but feel as though they honor the distinctly personal setting where she honed her voice.
Depicting a time in life so often muddied by quicksand in a way that’s as vivid and magical as a dream, Clean is an original, smart look at moments that burn bright and take hold. But while the collection strikes a candid tone from the start, the musician’s shrewd perspective doesn’t get swept up and washed away by sentiment. Instead, it balances a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere with a calm conviction that’s at its most quietly cutting on “Your Dog.” Tracing the indignities of a relationship on unequal footing, the song simmers with the resentment of someone no longer willing to play the role of a silent shadow or pet, while also hinting at the mixed emotions that led them there. In “Cool,” that piercing commentary is focused on Mary and the obvious hold she has over the boys at school. Although even at its sharpest, Clean doesn’t lose it’s sense of complexity, and verses warning how the girl with the “heart of coal” will “break you down and eat you whole” aren’t exactly the critiques they initially seem to be – they’re celebrations that soon reveal a stinging desire from our awe-struck narrator to just once wield that type of power.
Creating a mood that’s both in the moment and forward thinking, tracks like “Still Clean,” “Flaw” and “Blossom (Wasting All My Time)” often feel as though they were written from the ashes of a long lost diary that’s somehow been annotated from the future. Yet it’s the wistful, starry-eyes of “Scorpio Rising” that turns nostalgia and recollection into an all out rush of euphoria and heartache. Looking back at a love that won’t last over an acoustic guitar that practically glows, Allison tries to hold onto passing moments and fading memories like you’d catch a firefly. And by realistically honing in on what it can feel like to be young, Clean embodies the tug-of-war between the logic of the mind and the recklessness of the heart with imagination and intensity, placing our own hands on the rope as the skin breaks and bleeds.
Article: Caitlin Phillips
Cover Image: PSquared Media