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“In the summer, you said you loved me like an animal.”
Those are the words that will introduce most of the world to the music of Soccer Mommy, aka 20-year-old Nashville songwriter Sophie Allison. Dark with desire and blunt with loss, that opening line of that song, “Still Clean,” is emblematic of Allison’s ability to gesture at the wild and tender aspects of love in ways that make age-old aches feel newly bruising. Her debut album, Clean, came out last Friday on Fat Possum, and though it’s her first proper full-length, it follows up a recent smattering of Bandcamp one-off tracks released by the label as Collection in 2017.
Where her early demos were beautiful in a bleary and tentative way, the best moments on Clean border on insolent; Allison has plenty to rail against — including herself — and the anger is a nice companion to the small griefs she mourns and battles through in her music. For instance, on one of the album’s standouts, “Your Dog,” she typifies her status in the relationship as a pet on a leash, sleeping on the edge of the bed, and snarls against it: I don’t want to be your fucking dog. The rebuttal, of course, is that yes she does, and will continue to be. There’s something so reluctantly familiar in both the resentment and the quiet resolve that makes this song intractable, and tangible in a way that few songs about relationships ever manage to be.
Though she’s just at the beginning of her career, Allison has a grip on the kind of songwriting that appeals to people in every stage of their lives, because it’s about emotional processes, not necessarily conclusions. After graduating high school, the young songwriter moved to New York City to attend NYU, where she felt the freedom to begin releasing music in earnest, played her first show at Silent Barn, and shortly after landed a record deal with Fat Possum. Now, she’s putting school on hold to focus on her blossoming career. I recently spoke with Allison by phone about her own process behind putting together a first proper full-length, some of the intricacies of her songwriting, and how it felt to drop out of college to be a full-fledged musician.
One of my favorite songs on the record is “Still Clean.” It felt like the concept of being clean on the record was connected to not being attached to the wrong kind of relationship, or something like that. How do you sort of envision that?