Today’s Song: Soccer Mommy Pulls Back the Curtain on “circle the drain”

Soccer Mommy © Brian Ziff
“circle the drain” shows Soccer Mommy embracing the power of vulnerability and honesty, taking us closer than ever to her, and coating it all in nostalgia.
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Listen: “circle the drain” – Soccer Mommy

How do you follow up an album that opened up every door for you? Soccer Mommy’s debut Clean, released in 2018, catapulted her into indie stardom and enchanted every listener with its witty, transparent, and vulnerable lyrics and layered, dreamy sounds. Sophie Allison went from being someone who uploaded songs she recorded in dorm rooms and bedrooms to Bandcamp to opening for the likes of Phoebe Bridgers and Paramore as well as embarking on her own national and international tours supporting the record.

It was impossible not to admire that body of work, so familiar yet so new, that conjured up memories and experiences in the listener’s mind with its terrific lyrical and sonic imagery. The angst and jealousy in “Last Girl”, the self-assurance of “Your Dog”, the infatuation of newly found love in “Blossom (Wasting All My Time)”, and the emotional catharsis in “Scorpio Rising” were all felt deeply and cut like a knife.

So, how do you follow up a project that worked so well and was adored by so many? You shred every ounce of ego you might have, bring songs closer than ever to your heart and home, embrace the power of vulnerability and honesty, and pair all of these with some killer musical arrangements. “circle the drain”, Soccer Mommy’s lead single off her second album, color theory, does just that: it takes us closer than ever to Allison and her day-to-day life, describing her experience with mental health in excruciating detail, and sounds just as nostalgic as carefree summer afternoons with your childhood friends feel.

Watch: “circle the drain” – Soccer Mommy

I wanna be calm like the soft
summer rain on your back
like the fall of your shoulders
But everything just brings me back down
to the cold hard ground
And it keeps getting colder
It’s a feeling that boils in my brain
I would dial back the flame
But I’m not sure I’m able
I’m wobbling out on the wire
And the lights could go out
With the break of a cable

Lyrically, “circle the drain” presents us with some of Allison’s best work to date. She conveys moods and feelings that are hard to put into words with poignantly described scenes, like on opener “I wanna be calm like the soft/ summer rain on your back”. There’s a yearning to transform herself, a clear aim for who she wants to become, but the frustration at her inability to change something about her existence she can’t control. Allison puts into words the tension of living with mental health issues – in her case, anxiety and depression, which she’s been open about before – so perfectly. It’s a familiarity in articulating these feelings that could only come with the experience of having lived this struggle for years, and Allison turns potentially harrowing scenarios and emotions into something confessional and beautiful when she puts it in song.

Things feel that low sometimes
Even when everything is fine
Hey I’ve been falling apart these days
Split open watching my heart go round and around
Round and around
Circle the drain
I’m going down

The chorus is when Allison really pulls back the curtain, getting her message across directly while also toying with movements and images that help us understand how she’s feeling. It’s rare to ever listen to someone sing the words “I’ve been falling apart” so lightly and with such sweetness, it’s a feeling she’s accepted and is now confronting head first. The circular imagery she evokes in the chorus, aside from nodding at the obvious picture of something going down the drain, also hints at the vicious, never-ending cycle that dealing with your mental health can feel like – there’s seemingly no end and no beginning, and the feeling of being trapped is omnipresent.

I’m trying to seem strong for my love
For my family and friends
But I’m so tired of faking
‘Cause I’m chained to my bed when they’re gone
Watching tv alone
Until my body starts aching
And I think there’s a mold in my brain
Spreading down all the way
Through my heart and my body
‘cause I cling to the dark of my room
and the days thin me out
or just burn me straight through

The physical symptoms of Allison’s mental health struggles are told next, with a specificity that only Allison can make sound good in song. Though delivered in a nonchalant, almost honey-coated form, the words perfectly convey the visceral and physical aspects of anxiety and depression – the inability to move or leave the bed, feeling worn down by the passage of time, believing your body is feeble, the overwhelming exhaustion, these are all moments Allison touches upon, making her experience even more vivid for the listener.

color theory, out on Feb. 28th via Loma Vista Records, will see Soccer Mommy drawing us in even closer to her life. Divided in three parts, yellow, blue, and grey, the album will deal with subjects that range from being taunted by your darker side, Allison’s mother’s terminal disease, Allison’s mental health, and more. It promises to be as full a listening experience as possible, turning listeners into even more devoted fans than they were after being heartbroken and put back together by Soccer Mommy’s Clean.

“circle the drain” is the perfect lead single for Soccer Mommy’s next chapter, combining Allison’s visual and lyrical richness, as well as her refusal to avoid the harder and darker parts of life in song, with a familiar and exciting sound that counteracts the lyrical content bringing light and warmth to the song. Sophie Allison’s description of a battle with your own mind in “circle the drain” is as pointed and relevant as it gets, and if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live inside the brain of most young people today, “circle the drain” offers a realistic, but delicious to listen to, take on the experience.

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