Sophie Allison has dusted off a trope from childhood and brought it back into the fold, performing a bit of pop-culture alchemy to turn the conventionally corny into something trendy. You hear Sunny D, high-waisted denim, minivans, and orange slices, and you answer, What is a soccer mom? And then you hear some of Sophie Allison's addictively laid-back, DIY indie pop and you think, Soccer Mommy. It's the moniker Allison has adopted to craft songs that often grapple with those final pangs of outgrowing adolescence.
It's a retro-cool front Allison has adopted, but it actually isn't much of a front at all. Her signature accessory is a "NYU Mom" baseball cap she sports around campus (which, for NYU, is essentially the streets of Noho). It's a fashion piece that can double as a nod to her alma matter, music, and personality (because if Allison were actually a mom, she'd be a cool mom. Not a regular mom). A Tennessee native turned Manhattan transplant, Allison's music is composed not only of drum machines and a dexterous guitar work, but the theme of straddling two worlds. It's a tale of two cities (Nashville and New York) and two stages of life: childhood and adulthood.
Allison approaches this coming-of-age sentiment with a touch of wisdom, reflecting on the whole process of growing up rather than wallowing in its uncertainty. While she still has that spunky feel of making music beside a desk light in her dorm room, Allison's latest release, For Young Hearts, was picked up by Queens-based Orchid Tapes, whose ears are well-attuned to what's worth a listen. For instance, "3 AM At A Party," which features an acoustic guitar and Allison's vocals which float across her arrangements like a murmur—simultaneously steely, hushed and slightly fuzzy, as if they were layered.
They feel like a soft-spoken stream of consciousness, delivered late at night, when exhaustion makes us honest and perhaps a bit harsher on our past. In this case, it's young love—or rather, a young heart that's grown jaded. "I wish we had chances to talk like this / A little more often ... But you were always dealing with your girlfriend's shit / I was always feeling broken over it." It's a lyric that hits hard and is accentuated by Allison's blunt tone, which displays a blend of strength and vulnerability. "You deserve better than the ones you want," she notes ruefully, touching on those old heartaches we thought we buried.
Then there's "Skinned Knees," which hums along as a wistful, sweetly sad tune. Allison's voice shifts between a high, airy timbre and a deep, heartfelt croon. It's plays like a film reel of home movies, ruminating on the promise of not letting go, even if it's just a memory. "Old flames grow and die with every year / But you stay hot," she sings, as a whistle weaves in and out of the melody, but, "Summer always hurts / Think of your first / And your skin peel." It's a poignant piece of work—both "Skinned Knees" and the other seven tracks that comprise her album. Allison has that artistic eye that can imbue childhood scrapes with a deeper form of longing, and as you listen, you can't help but reminisce.