In New Music Review, I usually cover records released in the last few months, but I’ve been enjoying this 2018 release lately, so:
Sophie Allison was born in Switzerland and grew up in Nashville. She self-released indie guitar pop as a teenager on Bandcamp, but 2018’s Clean is her official debut album, released at the age of twenty. While she records with a band, Soccer Mommy is effectively an alias for Allison.
Allison’s disinterested, drawling voice and uncertain blend of bravado and emotional vulnerability recalls 1990s alt-rocker Liz Phair, although Allison wasn’t born when Phair was in her prime. Allison herself names Taylor Swift and Mitski as influences; Mitski’s guitar-rock like ‘Your Best American Girl’ is a good reference point musically. Allison’s lyrical imagery and story telling isn’t unlike Swift’s, although lines like “I want to be the one you’re kissing when you’re stoned” are more comparable to Phair than to the clean-cut Swift.
Impressively, Allison’s both a strong lyricist and an extremely creative guitarist. Her rhythm guitar is the dominant feature of Clean, whether she’s playing unusual, droning riffs like ‘Cool’ or distinctive rhythms like the scratching, tentative ‘Flaw’ and the sparse, acoustic ‘Blossom’.
Opener ‘Still Clean’ features the record’s most memorable imagery, comparing a former lover to a carnivore.
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
Second track ‘Cool’ is notable for its guitar work, both the droning riff that opens the song and the bizarre ending where the guitars de-tune, leaving the song hanging on an ambiguous note.
The focal point though, is ‘Scorpio Rising’, where Allison’s prettiest melody is matched by an arrangement that ratchets up the tension, ending in a squall of feedback.
Clean is a ridiculously assured album from a 20 year old. Allison’s dual skills as a writer of creative guitar riffs and evocative lyrics constitute a strong arsenal of talent.