Review Summary: The sound of a soul
These days I spend a lot of time worrying about sadgirl indie fatigue setting in for me. It’s been well over a year since Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle
graced my ears, and since then I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole into the world of artists like Phoebe Bridgers and Haley Heynderickx, falling for one after another without pause. I often wonder, when will it stop？Will I finally run into someone that’ll make me go, “Huh. No, I’m good. That’s enough for me”？Who knows, but it hasn’t hit yet.
It’s easy for people to critique the genre as all sounding the same, but what makes it hit home time and again isn’t just the acoustic guitars strumming under the customary themes of loss and heartache. Besides, every artist has their own brand of sound, and Soccer Mommy is no different. The album is very much rooted in those familiar sounds, but regardless we find far more of a rock sound that swells up regularly in tracks like “Last Girl,” and there’s also an ethereal depth to the music that keeps the listener guessing in unexpected moments. Still, one doesn’t get the feeling that she’s actively trying to shy away from her influences and peers; neither is she trying to sound like anyone in particular. She just sounds like what she does.
That authenticity is what makes it click. She seems to state, This is who I am. This is what I sound like. This is how I feel.
I never feel catered to, even when a more poppy song dominates my ears (the sugar sweet “Cool” comes dangerously close, but the jagged guitar outro reassures us that it’s coy lyrics are purely ironic), I know the feeling behind it is true, and that’s what motivates the sound. There’s a realness to the music that can’t be ignored, no matter how familiar the style might be.
Sophie Allison, Soccer Mommy’s alter ego, seems to understand a problem I’ve grappled with as an artist for quite some time now: What’s the point of telling stories if they’re not your own？
Personal truths, as opposed to fables of others’ lives, are always going to be more powerful unless you have an incredible talent as a storyteller and find a way to make it personal. Even if the feeling she expresses isn’t what I’m feeling right now, it’s true to her. And that’s enough. As she sings in “Scorpio Rising,”
“‘Cause you're made from the stars
That we watched from your car
And I'm just a victim of changing planets
My Scorpio rising and my parents”
In a single quatrain there’s personal longing and loss, but also universal concept of nature vs nurture, and helplessness. That’s not to say that there isn’t anything going on here musically, or even that the lyricism eclipses the delivery. Allison’s sultry candor and strained falsetto is surprisingly far more charming than awkward. She’s also an excellent songwriter, with a knack for catchiness. I was humming along to the chorus melody of “Flaw” by the second time I heard it, and “Blossom” showcases her ability to make a winning song out of sparse atmospherics and simplicity.
But it’s the closing trio here that cements the real staying power of this record. The aforementioned “Scorpio Rising” acts as a vicarious climax of epiphany for the album that’s so powerful it demands a lovely interlude track to recover from it. Combined with the otherworldly but beautiful haze of the longing closer, its gentle guitar strumming slowly spiraling into an electroacoustic emotional recovery, the three create an atmosphere so dense yet intimate that you could get swept away at the same time as they toy with your expectations.
The point is, as long as the music is moving and the feelings are real, I don’t think I’ll ever grow fatigued of music like this, regardless of the genre it’s situated in. This is an album that helps me to feel the things that I push back deep into myself. The music acts as a conduit, an invitation to feel. What that feeling is, that’s up to you. As long as it helps.