Sophie Allison sings of exhaustion at the end of a great feeling. During her work as Soccer Mommy, she excavated that point after despair or elation where your nerves come back from overdrive, when the intensity wears off and you are left with the emptiness of yourself. Since releasing her debut studio album, Clean, in 2018 she has been working on elevating the contrasts of her guitar-based songs. The LP of 2020 color theory pulled vintage synthesizers and layered samples into the mix, expanding the space in which her wry, biting and poignant lyrics could play. On her latest album Sometimes, foreverAllison teams up with Daniel Lopatin of the retrofuturistic electronic project Oneohtrix Point Never, whose production deepens the shadows in her songwriting. Soccer Mommy’s music has often been bitter and melancholy, but this is the first time Allison has faced danger so directly.
In the middle of Sometimes, forever lies the axiom that nothing lasts. The most vivid triumphs and hollowing depressions each in turn evaporate. Though repeated to the cliche, “this too shall pass” clashes with another persistent cultural story: that it is possible to make it, that if your output or your essence is good enough, you will ascend, be rewarded, never work a day in your life. Meanwhile, Allison has funneled enough cultural capital to see through the lie on the other side of success. You can win, but you still have to live with yourself.
“I lost myself to a dream I had/And I’d never give it all away/But I miss feeling like a person,” Allison sings on the ever-closer album, “Still.” During Sometimes, forever, she and Lopatin expand on the ’90s palette that characterized previous Soccer Mommy releases. Boosting the lingering imprints of Liz Phair, Sheryl Crow and Sleater-Kinney is a healthy dose loveless worship: sliding guitars and wisps of haze. “Darkness Forever”, with its copious negative space and twisting bassline, calls back to Portishead’s menacing folds dummy: Allison’s half-whispered vocals rise from her stomach as they orbit around the kind of self-destruction thought that feels permanent in its intensity. The minimally melodic pummeling of “Unholy Affliction” echoes PJ Harvey’s work with Steve Albini on her second album get rid of me† A choked bassline rumbles under the heaviest percussion to ever appear on a Soccer Mommy song, an agitated pattern whose bustle counterbalances Allison’s lanky vocal delivery. “I’m Barely A Person / Mechanic at Work,” she sings, hinting at the attrition demanded of an artist once the system decides their work is valuable and wants more of the same forever.