Soccer Mommy – color theory

With effortless cool, razor-sharp riffs and wise takes on adolescence, Soccer Mommy surpasses expectations on color theory

Album Review by Katie Cutforth | 25 Feb 2020
  • Soccer Mommy - color theory
Album title: color theory
Artist: Soccer Mommy
Label: Loma Vista
Release date: 28 Feb

Sophie Allison, aka Soccer Mommy, just keeps getting better. Her latest record surpasses any expectations set by 2018’s Clean, which set her apart from the crowd with its effortlessly cool pop energy, razor-sharp riffs and wise takes on adolescent turmoil. With color theory, Allison revives a fiery and rebellious noughties aesthetic, upgraded with enchanting sonic clarity.

‘I’m the princess of screwing up!’ she declares on royal screw up, surely with pop-punk heroine Avril Lavigne in mind. “I feel like it really bangs,” admits Allison in an interview with The New York Times, and she's not wrong. color theory is brimful of delicious melodies, finding a place for both her signature brash earworms like Your Dog and the innocent prettiness of Blossom and Switzerland.

color theory finds Allison digging a little deeper, addressing topics that she may have previously been avoiding. The record consists of three distinct parts – a spectrum of emotions – each embodying a corresponding colour: blue for depression; yellow for paranoia, mental and physical illness; grey for death. Although the majority of the record is upbeat, a closer look shows Allison staring misery in the face, tackling, in particular, emotions surrounding her mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis when she was a pre-teen. But far from providing resolution, the record is a candid portrait of a woman still very much in turmoil; untangling the knots of trauma, of depressive numbness, of the realisation of her own mortality.

‘I’ve barely left my room in the past week’, she sings serenely on bloodstream, cheerfully chugging guitars carrying her along while her world falls apart. With circle the drain, Allison longs to feel ‘calm’, ‘strong’ for her loved ones, but is unable to escape her turmoil. The song’s power lies in the mismatch of the music and the lyrics, in the relief that never comes. As the chorus reaches a kind of sonic resolution, you wait for the resolving line but are left only with the strange conclusion: ‘I’m going down’. 

On one hand, color theory could easily be enjoyed as intelligent and catchy indie-rock; on the other, it could be heard as something much more disquieting. By juxtaposing shatteringly sad lyrics with the cheeriness of the music, Allison presents her pain as unconquerable; too big to look at directly. When there can be no possible relief, she has to find a way to live on anyway. Maybe this is it: ‘Can’t erase the hue / It’s just coloured over’.

Listen to: bloodstream, circle the drain, royal screw up