Sophie Allison drags grunge pop into a new era for our pick of the week’s best releases
Growing up sucks, but not as much as growing old. Sophie Allison made Clean in 2018 because she had to – pouring all her then 19-year-old self into a confessional teen masterpiece that sounded like it was still scrawled in biro on the back of a textbook.
Flirting with pop-rock for 2020’s sweet ‘n’ sour pandemic album, Colour Theory, Soccer Mommy then sounded like they were headed away from the bedroom grunge that gave their lyrics edge. Resetting during lockdown, Allison returns now with the best album of her career – grown older, wiser, more ambitious and less indistinct, but without losing any of the urgent vulnerability that made her early work cut so deeply.
Picking up where Colour Theory left off, Sometimes, Forever starts off sounding exactly like the album everyone is expecting. ‘Bones’ begins soft and sweet – weaving 80s guitars and 90s dream pop through the hooks – before darkening into a lo-fi fuzz that heads the rest of the album in a whole new direction.
Texture is everything on Sometimes, Forever, and it’s difficult not to feel the influence of new producer Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never, the experimental electronic artist behind The Weeknd’s last record, as well as the Uncut Gems soundtrack). Apparently bonding over a shared love of the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Jesus and Mary Chain, Lopatin steers Allison towards shoegaze; scuzzing up the guitars and layering up the synths for an album you can almost touch as you listen to it.
Flecks of Nirvana colour the bubblegum graveyard jam of ‘Unholy Affliction’, and first single ‘Shotgun’ proves just how catchy Soccer Mommy can still be when they’re not pulling pop inside out through the throat. Further along, ‘Darkness Forever’ lands somewhere between early Radiohead and the Billie Eilish Bond theme the film producers were probably terrified she might turn in.
Singing openly here about sticking her head in an oven, Allison’s own struggles with mental health are buried under a Sylvia Plath metaphor – just one ghost story among many on an album full of gothic horror (none less so than during ‘Following Eyes’ – breathing so much 80s slasher chic it might as well be pitching for the Stranger Things soundtrack).
Not that Sometimes, Forever shies from actual introspection. “I’m just 22 going on 23, already worn down from everything,” sings Allison on ‘Feel It All The Time’, ending the record on two perfect tracks that bring Soccer Mommy right back to hard-felt emotion of their youth. “I don’t know how to feel things small, it’s a tidal wave or nothing at all…” begins ‘Still’, a track so raw it’s hard to listen to – ending the record on a song about self-harm and numbness.
Ultimately though, it’s Soccer Mommy’s maturity that gives Sometimes, Forever hope. Raw without feeling rough, perfectly balancing the light and the dark – it’s an album that carries the energy of youth without the messiness. This is what growing up should feel like.
Sometimes, Forever is out on Friday 24 June. Soccer Mommy is playing a string of UK dates throughout August and September, with tickets available here.