Soccer Mommy’s debut album, “Clean,” is anything but that. Confronting complicated relationships, the move away from home and skinny-dipping with boys, the lyrics of Soccer Mommy — whose real name is Sophie Allison — are piercingly raw and relatable. The mix is intentionally muddled, staying true to the bedroom pop sound of her previous releases.
Soccer Mommy’s introspective lyrics and captivating hooks charmed fans across the indie scene as the singer built a fan base on the music discovery and distribution platform Bandcamp. She released her first music in 2015 before catching the attention of Fat Possum Records in 2017. The singer, raised in Nashville, Tenn., moved to New York University to study music business before dropping out in 2017 to pursue her songwriting career.
On tour with another rising indie star, Phoebe Bridgers, Soccer Mommy’s success reflects lo-fi’s growing popularity. Short for low fidelity, the genre is defined by an aesthetic decision to include sonic elements that would not meet contemporary industry standards.
With quantized midi instruments and the use of audio editing software such as Melodyne as the norm for music producers, the distorted audio signals and slightly flat vocals on “Clean” challenge the idea that music should sound perfect. This artistic movement gained prominence in the 1990s punk do-it-yourself scene and raises the age-old question of what yields artistic authenticity: Do flaws allow a singer to express greater emotional sincerity? Do imperfections make a record feel more human?
Along these lines, part of Soccer Mommy’s appeal is how normal she seems. Her pleasantly off-pitch vocals and her cadence generate a conversational tone to her songs. While magazines and social media often portray musicians as larger-than-life, Soccer Mommy seems less like a celebrity and more like someone to whom listeners can relate.
Whether or not Soccer Mommy is intentionally making a statement about the current state of popular music, her sound has become part of an aesthetic that lo-fi artists try to reproduce. Soccer Mommy further highlights imperfections in her record by splicing a demo take into “Still Clean” and ending “Cool” with what sounds like fluctuations in tape speed, which cause the track to swing out of tune.
While “Clean” plays into these tropes, it has an edge unique to the lo-fi singer-songwriter ilk. In particular, its lyrics are twisted and violent at points. In the opening song, Soccer Mommy reflects on a previous relationship in which her significant other “left me drowning / once you picked me out your bloody teeth.” The influence of bands like Nirvana and Sonic Youth is evident, but Soccer Mommy also hints subtly at her Nashville roots in more stripped-down songs like “Wildflowers” and “Scorpio Rising.”
On the surface, this album is nothing new. It is a 10-track bedroom pop album about heartbreak and teenage angst that uses reverb like T-Pain uses Auto-tune. As she aptly characterizes her own music, it is “chill but kinda sad.” This album places Soccer Mommy among the wave of female songwriters dominating the indie-rock scene with gentle melodies and vulnerable lyrics.
Yet, it takes a few listens to appreciate the greater depth that “Clean” holds. Her devastating lyricism and intimate arrangements engender a hauntingly beautiful product. The melodies are pleasingly simple, and Soccer Mommy has a distinctive ability to capture feelings of uncertainty.
While the album has a cohesive sound and a few strong songs — “Your Dog” and “Cool” stand out — it becomes slightly monotonous, and the production leaves the listener wanting more. Soccer Mommy’s debut full-length release is a promising development for this 20-year-old songwriter, but moving forward, she must push boundaries to further distinguish her sound from that of other bedroom pop-stars.