It would be easy to dismiss Nashville-based Soccer Mommy as just another Bandcamp emo kid. The singer-songwriter grew up on Taylor Swift, which means her musical references start from the position of very new, very pop music. She also loved Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson, Hilary Duff and Ciara.
However, to dismiss Soccer Mommy, the nom de plume of 20-year old Sophie Allison, as just another Taylor Swift clone would be missing the point entirely. Allison started singing when she was five years old. As she worked through her tween angst with Swift, Allison discovered even sharper interpreters of teenage doom, like Nirvana, Sonic Youth, the Jesus and Mary Chain and Slowdive.
By the time Allison graduated from high school, she was thinking about music all the time, but not as as career. She moved to New York to attend NYU and felt isolated and miserable. That’s when the Soccer Mommy project was born. Allison was lonely and friendless in college, so she turned her pain into music recorded in her dorm room. The recordings were released via Bandcamp and eventually on her debut album, 2017’s Collection.
After a year of college, Allison contacted the lo-fi imprint Orchid Tapes, which decided to release her music in an unusual way: 100 limited edition gold cassette tapes. That EP, For Young Hearts, is now highly sought-after by collectors. The stunt worked, earning Allison attention from the music media.
Although Collection quickly found an audience, Allison wasn’t that happy with the record. She dropped out of school, went on tour with Phoebe Bridgers, and finished her sophomore effort, Clean. She describes her aesthetic as “chill but kinda sad,” but it’s hard to miss the evolution in the way she presents her music. On Clean, Allison makes it clear that she’s leaning hard into the alt-rock genre.
The lyrics of Clean show a young woman contemplating the perils of success and the confusion of early relationships. On the song “Still Clean,” Allison depicts the savage aftermath of love gone wrong:
In the summer /You said you loved me like an animal
Stayed beside me / Just enough to keep your belly full
Then you took me down to the water / Got your mouth all clean
Left me drowning / Once you picked me out your bloody teeth
But Allison is far from a damsel-in-distress victim. On the song “Cool,” she idolizes a teen girl who is also animalistic:
Mary has a heart of coal / She’ll break you down and eat you whole
I saw her do it after school / She’s an animal
On “Your Dog,” she announces her feminism with blazing fire, singing:
I don’t wanna be your fucking dog / That you drag around
A collar on my neck tied to a pole /Leave me in the freezing cold
Her juxtaposition of animal instincts and the dog-eat-dog world with singer-songwriter pastiche is what makes Soccer Mommy stand apart from the coffeehouse set with aplomb. Soccer Mommy is committed to a tell-it-like-it-is aesthetic that reminds one of an artist she didn’t list, but certainly channels: early-years Liz Phair. Clean marks Sophie Allison as an artist to watch.