“The blood jet is poetry,” Sylvia Plath wrote in her poem ‘Kindness’, “and there is no stopping it.” There are a few reasons this quote runs through my mind as I listen to Soccer Mommy’s addictive new album, Sometimes, Forever. For one thing, Sophie Allison invokes the poet directly on ‘Darkness Forever’, which opens with the lines: “Head in the oven/ Didn’t sound so crazy/ My brain was burning/ Hot to the touch.” Several profiles were quick to draw attention to the parallels it invited. The way Allison’s writing stares down a well of darkness and self-destruction suggests that it’s fuelled by a similar kind of creative drive, one that’s vital and irrepressible. “The blood jet is poetry” is one of the most famous statements Plath made about her art, but its unsettling ambiguity – is she ascribing meaning to poetry or a physical sensation? – reminds me of Allison’s work, too. Listening to Sometimes, Forever, though, it’s the specific connotations of blood jet that carry the most weight: in Allison’s lyrics, blood grows from a marker of pain to some hazy feeling, a token of intimacy and even success. A desire that must be fed, a thread that never ends.
The emotions that course through Soccer Mommy’s music have always been dizzying in their intensity. From their earliest lo-fi recordings to the poignant indie rock of her 2018 studio debut Clean to 2020’s heavier color theory, the band has experimented with new ways of expanding and colouring the edges of their songs, but it’s all about amplifying what simmers at their core, an essence that feels eerily similar each time but never quite the same. The swirling layers of color theory mirrored its portrayal of mental illness, allowing Allison to delve into a pervasive darkness as well as the unpredictable forms it takes as it crawls through to the surface. The idea of circularity – that you can’t stop the spiral of either positive or negative experiences – more subtly imbues Sometimes, Forever, which begins with Allison singing, “I feel the bones of how we used to be/ They crowd the space between us in our sheets.” The lyrics feel perfectly tangible yet evoke a certain nostalgia that pulls you back in the moment the album comes to a close; you want to play it back, keep chasing the thrill.
Or, perhaps, wonder how things got to that point. ‘Still’ is a hauntingly confessional closer written during a particularly dark period in Allison’s life: “I don’t know how to feel things small,” she sings, “It’s a tidal wave or nothing at all.” The fittingly bare-bones instrumentation enhances every part of the song that is uneasy and powerful. But no matter how much you try to drown it out, or how disaffected of a tone it takes, Allison’s voice always cuts through. Sometimes, Forever finds her teaming up with Oneohtrix Point Never mastermind Daniel Lopatin, an unexpected pairing in theory but more than effective in practice. Lopatin’s production sharpens the nuances of the songs while building on, rather than diverging from, the distinctive palette Soccer Mommy began carving out with color theory: darker, grungier, and more dynamic, mutating in different directions but held together by Allison’s creative vision.
As confident as it is, though, her songs confront a complicated relationship with the self that often devolves into violence, wrapped up in ideals of love and success. “I’m trying to be someone/ That you could love and understand;” “I lost myself to a dream I had/ And I’d never give it all away/ But I miss feeling like a person;” “I’m barely a person/ Mechanically working.” Sometimes, Forever never feels divided as much as conflicted, but it’s clear some songs sprung from a less despairing headspace. Lead single ‘Shotgun’ – which, along with the effervescent ‘With U’, most directly expresses Allison’s romantic devotion – boasts its brightest, most infectious chorus – a fact that only underscores the brutal imagery (“I’m a bullet in a shotgun waiting to sound”) the rest of the track has been anticipating. ‘I Feel It All the Time’, goes the title of another song, whose sunny melodies seem to soundtrack a moment of levity, even escape, until Allison realizes, “But even the light is so temporary/ And I see the dark at the back of my heels.”
Allison’s songwriting doesn’t really deal in specifics. She doesn’t always have the exact words for the menacing feeling that comes back on songs like ‘Don’t Ask Me’ and ‘Fire in the Driveway’, but will find a million brilliant ways to describe how it moves through her body. She may not be able to trace its origins, but even when she sees a storm coming, like on the brooding ‘newdemo’, she’ll entertain the dream, even with the knowledge that it’s just “a lie that you wish would come true.” There’s fantasy there, and there’s magic. Whenever it gleams through Sometimes, Forever, its radiant beauty – and all the hurt that comes with it – is impossible to ignore. “Eternity is boring, I never wanted it,” Plath wrote in ‘Years’. The kind of forever she’s referring to – divine and empty – may not have much to offer to most people. But the permanence of the blood jet – the force that urges you to keep searching even though there are no answers – is powerful, captivating, and achingly real. Sometimes, maybe always, it’s enough to keep you going.