Every once in a while an album comes along that makes old tricks feel new again, enhancing traditional structures with a clever youthfulness. Soccer Mommy, the project of 20-year-old Nashville singer-songwriter Sophie Allison, has done just that on her debut album, Clean.
A catalogue of adolescent obsession and the self-destructive nature of unrequited love, Clean flips the script on modest pop structures and sweet guitar melodies with Allison's lyrical genius – which has the ability to catch a listener off-guard multiple times within a single song. Opening track Still Clean starts as a light tale of summer-romance-gone-wrong, before Allison swerves towards body horror as she likens her ex to a vicious, hungry wolf; "Left me drowning/Once you picked me out your bloody teeth".
Clean is blissfully unclean. Its flaws aren't ironed out, and Allison's voice carries a raw, cracked lilt, introducing layers of strength and fragility as she mines the anxieties of youth. But even when observing a cliche, Allison goes darker. On Cool, a "cool" girl named Mary is revealed to be as monstrous as Allison's ex; she details, with a passive admiration, Mary's destruction of men, like a cannibal version of Gone Girl's Amy Dunne. "I wanna be that cool," she muses from afar.
Even alongside her comical turns of phrase, Allison has a remarkable ability to tell emotionally affecting stories. Flaw paints a heart-breaking picture of a relationship limited by depression, while the minimal, folky strum of Blossom (Wasting All My Time) turns from unrequited love to new love with a delicate transition. It's that kind of pivot towards optimism that represents the genius of Clean – not only does Allison bare her insecurities; she weaponises them, forging her own beautiful, personal armour.
Soccer Mommy, Clean
An intriguingly dark take on the insecurities of youth