It’s been nearly four years now since Sophie Allison exploded into acclaim with the release of her debut full length album Clean, an album that detailed the tragedy and heartbreak of long distance relationships and teenage love. She perfectly captured the constant battle of desire and despair of those formative teenage years when everything feels like the greatest tragedy known to man. Allison was 20 when she released Clean, and now sitting at 25 the demons that she’s always battled with still reside within her but with age has come wisdom about what she needs and in what design.
What set apart Allison’s debut album from the rest of the Americana indie rock heartbreak albums of the time was not just her intimate songwriting but the production of how she gave life to her tracks. From the raw and crystal clear sound of opener “Still Clean” with its sparkly guitars and interjecting synth swirls, to the crashing waves of feedback on “Scorpio Rising”, the trickery was subtle but helped create a wooden forest of sometimes unsettling and often graceful soundscapes. On her sophomore album color theory Allison often leant into elements of shoegaze she’s so often referenced, like on the expansive “yellow is the colour of her eyes”. Now this time with electronic wizard Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never at the helm of production, Allison’s sound has entered a new dimension of spectacular. The usual chugging guitars and backing band are in full force as the album opens with “Bones”, which moves from solitary ballad to grand orchestra of love induced soundscapes with twinkling guitars and distorted rises, this is Soccer Mommy turned up to 11. You can’t help but recall every intimate moment you’ve spent with someone you truly care for as the drums crash and the synths swirl on “With U”, becoming absorbed in the beauty of its grandiose expression of love. Lopatin’s electronic background comes out in full force on “Unholy Affliction” with the distorted synth-bass and hip-hop tinged drums battle out for which instrument can be the most demonic, helping bring a true darkness to Allison’s sound that’s only been hinted at before. Allison is older, wiser and more compelling now than she’s ever been, with her sound growing at an exponential rate, showcasing just how devastatingly beautiful Allison’s work really can be in the hands of a production magician.
Growth and appreciation is what this album is all about. Letting the past go, facing the demons you thought would once bring you down with a new sense of adversity and triumph. And growing to allow yourself to be loved by others. “I’m trying to be someone you can love and understand, but I know i’m not” Allison sings on opener “Bones” facing the self-doubt of her ability to be who she wants to be. And eventually growing tired of the lifestyle she now leads, “I’m tired of the money and all of the talking at me, I’m barely a person, mechanically working” she declares on “Unholy Affliction”. Allison was just 18 when she released her debut tape For Young Hearts, her entire adult life has been swallowed by the forever churning wheels of music stardom; and at this point she just wants to be able to be herself. Eventually facing some of her darkest moments on the Billie Eilish infused and sci-fi horror driven “Darkness Forever”. “Darkness forever, a cold sinking ocean, I want to feel the warm of relief, the devil is chasing hard on my tail” she sings and it seems as though all could be lost to the weight of the world around her. Allison not only instills the feeling of overwhelming dread but submerges you right into it, allowing all its despair to wash over you in a wave of synthesisers and searing distorted guitars.
But like a phoenix rising from the ashes Allison finds a light to hold onto, exploding the second half of the album open with the brit-pop stadium rock driven “Don’t Ask Me”. It’s got the big riffs, distorted guitar lines and a soundscape that Kevin Shields would take a double take at and wonder if he could use it on the forever, never fourth MBV album. For all the twists, turns and expansions that this album has taken so far though Allison decides to take it back to familiar ground on “Fire In The Driveway” with a stripped back moment that although is centered around the feeling of wanting to move on, does almost the opposite with the pacing of the album, slowing it down from the momentum it was building.
However like any compelling mystery, this proves to be a red herring as the following “Following Eyes” opens up a new side of this album that’s been lurking in the shadows waiting to emerge; the horror. “Beneath the half moon, the witching hour had me bound, an apparition, called to me without a sound” sings Allison over the skulking guitar lines. A long time Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan, Allison abstractly details a calling of an evil force pulling her in as she can’t escape the evil glare that follows her every move; the prominent backbone of many a Buffy encounter. On the surface its Allison showcasing her adept storytelling ability of the supernatural, but within lies something more evil than anything, the demons that bury themselves deep within us waiting to emerge. Allison has always put her emotions at the forefront of her work and now she uses them to detail the abstract, a sign of a truly brilliant songwriter.
“I lost myself to a dream I had” she sings on “Still”. Well it looks like now she may just have found herself again, and the version of herself that she’s found is the most daring and enigmatic we’ve seen yet. Bowing the album about in true Soccer Mommy fashion, Allison summarises her trials and tribulations into one last nostalgia inducing diary entry that washes over you like a wave of serenity. Allison has always been a voice of her times and she’s never showed it more vibrantly and expansively than on Sometimes, Forever. “Got pain in my back, 22 going on 23” she sings on “Feel It All The Time” and i couldn’t have put it better myself.