In 2017, Soccer Mommy signed with Fat Possum Records and released Collection, which re-recorded selections from two years' worth of uploaded songs. Less than a year later, Clean marks the official debut of the project by introspective singer/songwriter/guitarist Sophie Allison. On paper, the album represents a significant move from a homemade enterprise to a proper studio recording with a full band and an esteemed producer in Gabe Wax (Beirut, Palehound). Technically, Allison was already recording songs with other musicians and a dedicated engineer, but Clean takes it further, adding depth and precision to a still identifiable sound. Namely, the intimacy, subtle textures, and distinctly sinuous quality of her songwriting remain. From time to time, the production and mix add conspicuous touches that are far removed from her earliest tape recordings. "Still Clean," for example, drops out of the stereo mix on the final chorus, rebuilding with additional vocal tracks and shimmering electronics before it closes on an exposed guitar line. Perhaps at least as significant as the production, it's also her first group of songs to be conceived as an album. A 20-year-old at the time of its release, growth itself is a theme of Clean. "Your Dog," for instance, isn't about a cuddly pet at all, but rather her own inequitable relationship, one she's ready to leave. The bass-heavy track chugs along, incorporating leaping guitar arpeggiation and layers of humming distortion as it unfolds. Dissatisfied and disarmingly candid throughout, songs like "Your Dog" and the dreamier "Blossom (Wasting All My Time)" decide to move on from relationships because our protagonist wants better ("I can't see you blossom in the future that I'm dreaming"), while the incongruously power poppy "Last Girl" has the singer giving ground as she compares herself unfavorably to her beau's last girlfriend. Similarly, alongside a catchy melody and layers of harmonic guitar, "Cool" covets the status of another. That song ends in collapse, slowing and distorting pitches as it fades out. Throughout the album, Allison's vulnerable delivery and quietly tormented lyrics stick as much as hooks, artfully gradated guitar tones, and haunting echo that's mostly reserved for accompaniment, but they all work together in unsettled harmony.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson