Without fail, end of year listing the true nature of music journalism: a devolution into Mad Libs for music criticism.
The wave of year end lists reveal the shared ideas of national entertainment writers - sometimes hasty, or ill-informed, more often than not rehashed and recycled throughout the year. There’s a lot of borrowing from this site and ripping off that blog, etc.
But that’s okay, I suppose, when you’re trying to dilute the year plus’ worth of sweat equity, money, and emotional fuel that goes into an album into an instagrammable moment or pithy tweet punctuated by a bitly link to track actual user interaction. It’s the aristocracy of music doing its damndest to obfuscate the free will that makes connecting to music such a pleasant gut punch of connection.
But enough about Aristotle’s basic forms of government! Here’s the lede I’ve buried thus far - one of this year’s best records (more than deserving of any personal or public facing year end list) is Clean by Soccer Mommy.
As one of Nashville’s finest musical purveyors, there’s a slight disconnect between the Pitchforks and Rolling Stones of the world when it comes to Sophie Allison and her cohorts - they’re only giving her a passing glance. Meanwhile, Nashville and its various masses have a more than intimate feel for the oeuvre of Soccer Mommy. In other words, no musical Mad Libs from the Nashvillian perspective, just simple connection and inherent understanding, either from direct or adjacent standing.
In my own case, I can remember spending far too many hours, days, even weeks of my time at Fido in Hillsboro Village, becoming intimately familiar with the cavalcade of characters that would enter the cafe with regularity. There was Steve - who still goes every day - Josh, Margie, and a myriad of USN, Hume-Fogg, and NSA students who would spend their formative afternoons day in and day out.
As you might have guessed, one of those students was Sophie Allison, who would go on to become the face of Soccer Mommy. Others would become Sun Seeker, Dream Wave, motiongazer, Ornament, etc. These “kids” were living out those formative moments that would become the inspiration for incredible music while I was a nameless, faceless bystander, experience adjacent so to speak. Sure, I have no relevance in this greater initiative, but the idea of sonder and solipsism can be beguiling.
But that’s what permeates throughout music from Soccer Mommy, especially within Nashville, is the unexpressed but ever present vague familiarity of songs on Clean. Not for the exact location, but the universal experience on various thresholds, including local (aka “in Nashville”).
Obviously, there’s no explicit discernment if any songs on Clean have that sort of correlation. However, in seeing some of the continuing coverage of Soccer Mommy at the year’s end, it’s apparent that Allison understands the human experience inherently, which is why Clean speaks to so many on different levels. Everyone just wants to feel okay, and Soccer Mommy let’s people know they can.