One of the strongest young songwriters, Soccer Mommy's Sophie Allison, proves on Collection that her early releases stand the test of time versus new offerings and that the latter hasn't lost the vital factor that made her an artist to watch in the first place.
The Fader’s excellent catch-up with Jeremih following the release of his 2015 peak Late Nights: The Album opens with an all-too-familiar feeling for music fans: hearing a song in its unreleased embryonic state and simultaneously craving to hear it again while wondering just what it would become. For my experience with Soccer Mommy, the project of 19-year-old NYU student Sophie Allison, that feeling occurred the first time I heard the song “3 AM at a Party” off her excellent 2016 release for young hearts. Its languid pace emphasized the heartbreak evident in her lyrics -- “You deserve better than the ones you want / You deserve better, yet you’ll never see / You deserve better from someone like me” -- and captures the odd phenomena of youth where emotional awareness is often uneven between pairs. So it was no surprise that Allison chose to include the song for her mini-album Collection; the anticipation, rather, came from the information that it would include a reworked version of “3 AM” and other previously released highlights, and what that would sound like.
One hint towards this final product was the switch in labels releasing the project: on young hearts, she teamed up with the can’t-miss bedroom pop haven Orchid Tapes for its physical release, label head Warren Hildebrand mastering it; for Collection, however, the quarter-century-old Fat Possum Records is handling distribution. Artists like Wavves and Youth Lagoon, who missed being brought up via Bandcamp by a couple of years, have called Fat Possum home, so Soccer Mommy fits well into the fold, but the cleaner, bluesy influence of the label is a marked contrast from the fuzzy quality of her earlier work.
This first becomes apparent on the second song, “Try”. A twangy guitar and upfront bass trade the spotlight as Allison breathes life into missed connections on the chorus: “I just wanna know what you’re like / I just wanna try”. That last word something of a motif throughout the lyrics sheet. There’s a self-awareness to the verse-ending “Oh no” and how she sings it that, too, recurs on Collection, in how she mainly plays first-person narrator, albeit with some omniscient qualities.
Lyrically, this narration is utilized to craft eight distinct tales of love, only two of which, opener “Allison” and “Out Worn” are entirely new. But this works equally for those new to her music as well as those who have been following since the debut songs for the recently sad: the new tracks feel of a piece with the previous works, their confident production the result of years of honing a sound that began, like the best progressions, somewhat sinusoidally. There are worrying metaphors -- “I wanna kill myself / I wanna go to hell / And he’s the way I’m gonna do it” from “Death by Chocolate” -- and ruminations on our similarities to natural phenomena (“Out Worn”), all centered around love as the definitive emotion, and all of which position Allison as a member of a Bandcamp-affiliated group of young, exciting songwriters poised to replicate the successes of 2016 breakouts Frankie Cosmos and Mitski.
In terms of how the re-recordings changed the older songs, think the Weeknd’s Trilogy remasters more than the metamorphosing of the Arctic Monkeys for Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. The differences are often subtle and concern themselves with the sonic adjustments engineers make their trade on. Nonetheless, “3 AM at a Party” takes on the most noticeable change, its pace getting even slower so that the emotional payoff that concludes it becomes that much more devastating.
All of which leads back to “Allison”, a song that serves as both an intro and an outro. When taken as the former, its last-name-checking subject is in the midst of her journey to find love, self-reliant and dedicated to a singular goal. As the latter, it reads as an acknowledgement that the time spent on those whose names she didn’t even know (“Try”) or whose time ran its course (“Out Worn”) took away the chance to find love in the present. It’s a feeling that nods to experiential wisdom, and one that is easily relatable but hard to verbalize.
It's in this where Collection shines brightest: as a diary upon which the listener’s own journey can find kindred spirits because, when love is boiled down to its essence, as Allison notes on “Benadryl Dreams”, “It’s all the same thing.”