On Sometimes, Forever, Soccer Mommy Excel Outside Their Comfort Zone
The Nashville indie-rock group’s Oneohtrix Point Never-produced third album is their most creative work to date, and sacrifices none of their signature soundMusic Reviews Soccer Mommy
Since her debut album Clean made waves in 2018, it’s been clear that Soccer Mommy’s Sophie Allison is an unstoppable creative force. Though little about that record sounds groundbreaking now, it wound up influencing legions of other young songwriters to try their hand at this specific kind of isolated, effusive indie rock. Soccer Mommy’s ascent also made it apparent that Allison’s aims were much higher. The more fleshed-out color theory saw Soccer Mommy’s music leaning more into Third Eye Blind-adjacent pop-rock but still forging its own path, often side-stepping common structures, like on the seven-minute-long “yellow is the color of her eyes.” In their recent live shows, Allison and her band have been blowing up their old songs, transforming each into something fuller, more distorted, and completely new. This more shoegaze-inspired sound is prominent on their third studio album, Sometimes, Forever.
The most apparent change Soccer Mommy have made this time around is their enlisting of Daniel Lopatin as producer. Lopatin’s experimental electronic project, Oneohtrix Point Never, seems far enough removed that when this news broke, it inspired a lot of questions about what on Earth this record would sound like. Fortunately, Lopatin’s influence is positive, and Sometimes, Forever is endlessly more interesting because of his and Allison’s interplay. The album is a refreshing departure from the band’s prior work as Lopatin helps to twist their sound into new, more mangled shapes.
Album opener “Bones” sounds like Soccer Mommy’s discography in miniature, as its gradual build mirrors Allison’s own progression. Though it begins in the soft terrain of Clean, the song pulls in louder guitars, drums that hit harder, and a chorus whose melody feels ready to captivate college radio. As it wears on, triumphant in sound despite its vulnerable subject, it warps, and little silvery pinpricks of electronic instrumentation shoot in. By its end, “Bones” is a torrent of fuzzy guitars and an exemplar of everything Soccer Mommy is aiming for at present.
Some of the best songs on Sometimes, Forever are the ones where the album’s electronic influence is more subtle. Swirling keys and drums kick off “With U,” a laid-back rocker marked by its stunning, harsh chorus. “Being with you is all I can do / The stars and the moon can’t compare,” Allison sings, her voice cushioned by a mass of distorted guitars. The album’s lead single “Shotgun,” a song about the stifling nature of waiting, similarly takes only the sparing cue from the chaotic stylings of Oneohtrix Point Never. It’s made in the image of past classic Soccer Mommy songs like “Your Dog” or “Circle The Drain” in that everything about it serves its chorus, ensuring it bursts forth, a gripping and dynamic melody ready to stick with you forever. Here, that chorus comes decked out with ethereal gliding synths and a drum machine that echoes out like a bullet firing into the air. It’s an undeniable hit, easily one of the record’s best.
“Fire in the Driveway,” a more subdued number in the album’s back half, is a quieter highlight. A strummed acoustic guitar sits front and center with Allison’s soft voice singing about a fleeting encounter. Its wispy qualities are gradually hijacked as an eerie affectation and grinding synths creep up around it, transforming this ballad into something more abstract. Allison’s voice sounds labored, as though she’s trying to maintain composure amid the shaking of turbulence. These more measured changes help set Soccer Mommy’s new music apart but never make it feel foreign, grounding her sound in familiar territory, but letting itself take chances that never would have been possible before.
There are a handful of songs that sound completely different from anything Soccer Mommy has ever done. These are the moments when they get to play with influences they admire, but were never previously able to integrate into their music. “Unholy Affliction” is a murky track with a warped arrangement. Allison’s voice is a distant deadpan as she bristles against the trappings of success—”I don’t want the money / That fake kind of happy.” Its clashing, mechanical drums recall Portishead, and the effects applied to Allison’s voice make her sound more like Elizabeth Fraser than she ever has before. The dark turn is repeated on “Darkness Forever,” a song that brings Sylvia Plath’s famous suicide to the forefront as Allison begins: “Head in the oven / didn’t seem so crazy / My head was burning / Hot to the touch.” Soccer Mommy has discussed pain, both mental and physical, in the past, but never from such a stark perspective. As this monstrous track builds, it grows more ominous. With sludgy guitar riffs and rumbling drums, all of which are flanked by screeching synths, there’s nothing comfortable here. These tracks both serve as testaments to the band’s versatility, and to how much they can change if given the right push.
Despite how inventive things can be when Soccer Mommy think outside the box, two of the record’s best songs feel less like experiments—instead, they feel more like the natural next step from color theory. “Still,” the album’s closer, is a sparse, natural-sounding song about how dehumanizing fame can be. All the dramatics of the album it finishes out are gone, and only Allison’s voice is there to captivate us and move us to see her specific plight. “Feel It All The Time” is an extended metaphor in which Allison sings about her pickup truck as a source of confidence. It’s a breezy rocker with an immediately memorable hook, and it leans harder into Allison’s country music fan roots than any of Sometimes, Forever’s dark electronics. “Still” and “Feel It All The Time” shine because they feel like an alternate reality within the album. These are insights into the direction Soccer Mommy could have taken. This doesn’t negate the power of Sometimes, Forever, a record that will be noted for its big swings, but rather reinforces it. When a band is able to thrive both inside and outside their comfort zone, it is built to last. The release of Sometimes, Forever is just another indication that Soccer Mommy will persevere in the face of an industry that is always changing.
Eric Bennett is a music critic with bylines at Post-Trash, The Grey Estates and The Alternative. They are also a co-host of Endless Scroll, a weekly podcast covering the intersection of music and internet culture. You can follow them on Twitter at @violet_by_hole.
Revisit Soccer Mommy’s 2018 Paste Studio session below.