Published Feb 25, 2020There is a certain blue that colours the world between life and death. It's the blue of an infant's face, coughing awake in a world suddenly bright and noisy; the blue that runs beneath a grandmother's translucent wrist. It's the blue that shades Soccer Mommy's color theory, a record preoccupied with waiting for death, with singing some meaning into that melancholic hue before it fades finally to gray — endlessly, unreachably.
Soccer Mommy's major label debut, 2018's Clean, was precisely that — Sophie Allison sang with tenacity and wit over production that was shimmery and uncomplicated. color theory is something different. A darker and more complex record, it displays a newfound maturity in Allison's arrangements and a decidedly higher set of stakes. Allison has described color theory as divided into three distinct colours — blue, yellow and gray. It's a discomfiting combination – a bloated blue jay, a jaundiced eye, an ashen face.
However, the music tends to subvert its heavy subject matter, dressing difficult truths in the sun-drenched textures of late '90s alt-rock. Sturdy, imaginative guitar figures entwine with strings, keyboards, drum machines and samples — the sound of a newly confident world-builder let loose in the studio. A crowd bursts into applause at the climax of "royal screw up" — a rapt audience for the self-proclaimed "princess of screwing up" — while water burbles throughout "circle the drain."
The spectre of disease hangs over the record like a haze. Allison's mother has lived with terminal illness since Allison was a pre-teen, and she's everywhere — woven into the tumbling guitar of the epic "yellow is the color of her eyes," her heartbeat rattling among the programmed drums of tender closer "gray light." She's even there on the cover, her spectral hand caressing her daughter's face.
You can't reverse the tides and you can't love someone enough to keep them alive. But you can sing them into forever, in spite of time and space and failing bodies. Sophie Allison knows this, and songs like "yellow is the color of her eyes" show her wild-eyed bravery, and knowing defeat, at the loss of a loved one. And when she sings, with calm and conviction, "loving you isn't enough, you'll still be deep in the ground when it's done," there isn't much else to be said. (Loma Vista)