Poised to be one of 2018’s breakout stars, rock/bedroom pop artist Soccer Mommy delivered an unfiltered look at teenage angst on Saturday night at Great Scott.

2/24/18 – Great Scott

Soccer Mommy’s show sold out in under a day. Well, it wasn’t her show, technically. On Saturday night at Great Scott, Soccer Mommy (aka bedroom-pop artist Sophie Allison) opened for Phoebe Bridgers, the LA singer-songwriter who dominated music journalists’ year-end lists in 2017.

However, Allison is quickly becoming a critical darling in her own right. After her debut album, Collection, caught the eye of Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Paste, to name a few, the 20 year old Nashville resident has been riding a similar wave of acclaim and Spotify playlist placements that’s now ready to break in 2018. This was Soccer Mommy’s last night on tour with Phoebe Bridgers, and the two worked well together. Both are often tagged with the (inadequate) label of “sad girl music,” but their works shine light on dark places in vastly different ways. The concrete realism of Allison’s songs (especially present in new material) balanced the sweet darkness of Bridger’s tunes.

Sophie Allison’s music has drawn a lot of comparisons to Taylor Swift; filled with sticky hooks and economical lyrics, her songs feel like high school diary entries, unflinching in their emotional directness and specificity. Dense and detailed, Allison’s lyrics in her earlier material deal primarily with breakups. Songs like “Try” feel like the art-school cousin of Swift’s “Enchanted”, except where Taylor Swift stresses dramatic infatuation, Allison portrays a transient, charged moment of encounter (“Brushed across your wrist like a razor blade / you won’t ever know me.)”

On Saturday night, Allison sang with sincerity and spontaneity. Backed by a band of three tousle-headed college pals, she breezed through a 45-minute set before a packed room. The set switched between cuts off Collection and her new album Clean, due March 2 on Fat Possum Records (and now streaming on NPR).

Like any truly good pop musician, she uses her songs to distill and communicate emotion. As she explained in a recent interview, “They’re not about just one person, they’re about how they make me feel, rather than who they’re about.“ However, in the newer songs she played, there was a fresh edge to her heartbroken lyrics, evident in the brutal opening of her new single “Your Dog”, aimed at an emotionally abusive ex. Close to the mic and nearly motionless save for the occasional eyebrow raise, Allison’s lyrics exploded in contrast to her undemonstrative body language. “I don’t want to be your fucking dog / that you drag around.” In her hands, breakup songs feel liberating rather than vindictive.

Set against her lyrical pathos, Allison’s stage presence was friendly and relaxed. She took her time to tune and chat with the crowd between songs about everything from tour life (“I have to drive 16 hours tomorrow”) to music streaming (“I shouldn’t make fun of it. We all do it”). Allison was at home in those between-song silences that can plague opening acts.

On songs like the dark earworm “Inside Out,” Allison filled the small space with casual energy that belied the power of her songs and her musical ability. Opting for a clean, muscular guitar tone, she played with slacker-rock confidence that could be confused for disinterest if her writing weren’t so strong. Another new album cut, “Still Clean,” revealed new sides of Soccer Mommy’s sound. While the swirling guitars and sharp drums signaled a technical step forward, the simplicity and tenderness of the chorus confirmed that Sophie’s songwriting acumen, unobscured by the hype machine, has remained and exponentially matured.

As women continue to dominate and revive rock in 2018, Soccer Mommy is a uniquely gifted member of a prodigious pack. At Great Scott, she didn’t have to strain to make an impression. When songwriting comes to you this easily, the music does the work for you.

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