Nashville artist Sophie Allison finds beauty in bad experiences and the emotions that threaten to overwhelm us as we reach certain milestones in our lives. For Allison, introspection is easy but acting on those realizations and living with the consequences can be another matter entirely. But where some musicians might shy away from the harsher aspects of reality, she embraces them and all their tangled, gnarly motivations. Under the guise of Soccer Mommy, she attempts to make sense of these feelings and intense moments in time -- she's not merely relating stories; she's passing on wisdom and a weary insight.
Building on the strength of her 2017 release, "Collection," and a handful of previous bedroom-recorded EPs, she holds to her bedroom pop sound while slyly incorporating larger musical motions on her new record, "Clean" (out now via Fat Possum Records), finding room for fiercer indie rock asides and arena-sized choruses in the process. She's lost none of the intimacy and gained a more dynamic range. Where her earlier work found her bearing the weight of her emotional narratives with just her guitar at her side, "Clean" reveals a more expansive landscape of sounds where she ably manifests the ability to combine small moments of wonder with intense emotional releases.
Opening track, "Still Clean," harnesses the lo-fi beauty of her earlier work and is interrupted only occasionally with some quietly affecting flourishes, creating a gentle and unwavering balance between her voice and her guitar. And although there are moments when the heft and reach of her music is increased exponentially, the album is still centered around the power of this simple combination. When the elastic bassline and emphatic drumbeat of "Cool" kick in, you get the feeling that she's having a blast shaking up the foundations of her sound. But it's approached through a mixture of patience and intimate exploration -- she's not rushing anything and finding ways to open up these rhythms without sacrificing the haunting impact of their existence.
She opts for something penetrative, something casually aware of the trials and aches that befall us as we grow up. And across the album, she find ways to give voice to these struggles. She may not always have an answer, but she's always willing to talk it out. Tracks like "Your Dog" and "Skin" evince a classic indie rock momentum, moving between calm seas and stormy emotions with just the slightest movement of her fingers. Life can be hard, but Allison finds a certain grace in difficult choices and the ways in which we live with the consequence of our actions. With the soft-to-slightly-louder dynamic of "Scorpio Rising" and "Last Girl," she dismantles out expectations and shows us that this kind of music doesn't rely on a single lyrical phrase or melodic arrangement to overwhelm but is expansive in its devastation.
She closes the album with "Wildflowers," a lithe and minimal song that dips back into that smaller pool of sounds and influences. And although she dials back the density as the record winds down, she doesn't loose sight of how important it is to keep the creativity flowing through each word and chord. "Clean" is a testament to the power of deceptive simplicity. Beneath the relatively unadorned surface of this collection, she develops a sort of emotional shorthand that allows her to inject a full tide of inspirations without discarding the narratives and musical histories that helped to shape her as a musician. Working her way through ideas of love, power and the capricious attitudes of youth, Allison discovers untold reservoirs of emotion that offer the invitation to dig a little deeper with every listen.