Soccer Mommy’s third album, Sometimes forever moves away from the sound of the first two albums while retaining some elements of previous efforts. This time, singer-songwriter Sophie Allison teams up with producer Daniel Lopatin, best known for his experimental electronic music. The result is an album with a more pop feel, from the synthesizers to the mixing. Sonically it’s a much bigger album, especially compared to the first low-fi album, To clean. The bass and drums fill the room rather than being an afterthought.
But it’s still a Sophie Allison sound. The same chorus-infused guitars, light strumming, clever lyricism, and a girl-next-door voice that combines pain and unease are present throughout the album. It’s just those elements with a fuller sound, smoother production, and a much murkier backdrop.
It’s evident as soon as the drums and bass come into play for the chorus of the opening track, “Bones”, adding a propelling element to the smooth, slightly overdriven guitars. Along with electric guitars from Allison and Julian Powell, the song features Rodrigo Avendano’s acoustic twelve-string, bass, drums and synths. This thickly layered sound exemplifies most of the album.
“I feel the bones of what we used to be,” Allison sings to open the song. Like many Soccer Mommy songs, it deals with conflicting emotions. In this case, it’s the desire for the best aspects of a relationship (“You make me feel like I’m whole again”) and the awareness that it’s not working (“I bled and patched you up way too much to call that of love”).
The industrial and electronic influences of “Unholy Affliction” give it a dark and gothic sound. In it, Allison struggles to try and build a successful career in music while staying true to her art, but also wanting that art to be flawless. ” I do not want any money ; that fake kind of happiness,” she sings disaffectedly over eerie pulsating synths that crackle and moan under the weight of her struggle. “But I want perfection.”
And it gets darker than that. “Darkness Forever” is an exploration of suicidal thoughts (“I want to feel the heat of release”) that references Sylvia Plath’s suicide (“Head in the oven didn’t look so crazy”). The dark subject matter is appropriately paired with otherworldly synths and a brooding bassline akin to Portishead’s “Glory Box”. It’s the most depressing song Allison has recorded, but it’s also one of the best. The pain is evident in every syllable of his croon, every distorted drum beat and every step of Avendano’s bass.
But the album isn’t just a gory fest, and Allison isn’t completely gothic. There are also lighter and more upbeat dishes. “Shotgun,” for example, is a catchy love song built around smooth dynamics and a powerful chorus. “Just let me stay here in your arms,” she sings.
Previous Soccer Mommy albums were partly defined by the sparse arrangements that left room for contemplation between notes. With the help of Lopatin’s production and mixing, Sometimes forever takes a different approach, creating dense soundscapes filled with diverse analog and electronic sounds. It’s Allison’s biggest risk yet, but one that comes with many rewards.