Review Summary: Meet me in the middle
"Pleasant" is not an emotion I often associate with great art. It’s the kind of thing that hangs in the back of your mind as you drink a cold beer in the sun on a temperate day - “This sure is pleasant”. It’s not even the kind of thing one would literally say aloud - it comes and goes without words. It’s a fine feeling to have, but it’s not interesting enough to think about for more than a split second. And this is how I feel about Color Theory,
it’s pleasant in all the worst ways. It hearkens back to a time when we as a society collectively fooled ourselves into believing Mac Demarco made good music. It’s reminiscent of eating bland, but-at-least-it’s-healthy food at Souplantation while Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up The Sun” plays unnoticed in the background. With bright melodies, overproduced songs, and a disappointing lack of depth Soccer Mommy has aimed for the middle with Color Theory
and largely succeeded.
It’s clear from the album cover that Color Theory
is promising to be reminiscent of late 90s/early 2000s pop-rock, and it most certainly delivers. Soccer Mommy channels her inner Sheryl Crow when she croons “Quit taunting / quit taunting me” about seven times too many on "Lucy," and like Crow’s early 2000s output the charm and talent of Soccer Mommy’s early work is washed out with rays of sunshine. When you quadruple track into oblivion the guitar parts of a lo-fi bedroom pop outfit like Soccer Mommy the music starts to lose its muster. Color Theory
becomes more inspired the more stripped down the songs become. "Stain" is mostly just guitar and vocals, and it hits like a ton of bricks in the way most of the tracks on Soccer Mommy's 2018 effort Clean
did. "Up the Walls" is the shortest song, and also the best, which is a shame as most of the album features four to five-minute bloated romps with verses and choruses that are repeated one too many times all plugged into meandering song structures. There’s nothing particularly troubling or outright bad, again, it’s a pleasant listen, but subtracting the cute, self-aware lyrics and smart lo-fi songwriting makes Color Theory
one note, one hue of sunny orange.
The lyrics on Clean
aren’t particularly deep, but Soccer Mommy sells “I don’t want to be your ***ing dog” and “Baby I lost my faith / I kissed him on the second date" with such charisma and relatability that it’s hard not to swoon like a high schooler. After several listens of Color Theory,
none of the lyrics stand out at all:
“What did you have that I didn't? And why am I so blue? Someone's talking in my forehead that says, "I'll never be like you".
It’s all so verbose and overwrought, a perfect complement to the lackluster music. You can hang out in the sun with this album, but don’t expect the sort of catharsis Clean
offered. Soccer Mommy is too talented to settle in the middle. Chalk Color Theory
up as a sophomore slump - a misstep she’s not likely to repeat - and the most aggressively OK album of 2020.