By Callum Thornhill (@Cal_Thornhill)
It is easy and somewhat lazy to associate lo-fi with mainstream success stories Mac DeMarco or Car Seat Headrest, but it is Bandcamp where the real hidden gems linger and ripen until picked like prize fruit. The latest of those to release a full length (eight tracks of blissful bedroom pop infused lo-fi vibes) is Soccer Mommy.
Following on from 2016’s For Young Hearts comes Collection; a selection of elegant, fuzz laden tracks freshly pulled from the wordsmith Sophie Allison that dabble in whispery harmonies flowing over subdued instrumentation. That is not to say that Collection is an overly emotive, depressive accumulation of even more Bandcamp finds to listen to on a downbeat, overcast day, though – quite the opposite. The skill set acquired by Allison is showcased on the album in crevices so acute that it takes you until the final track, Waiting For Cars, to realise the development and progression that has just occurred before your eyes and ears.
There are seamless and gentle transitions between tracks throughout, which given the eclectic mix of traditional and new wave lo-fi vibes merging is quite the feat. Take 3am at a Party, for example; connotations with that title would assume that it is a boisterous, carnival-esque atmosphere, but Soccer Mommy have juxtaposed this and crafted a two and a half minute reflective, short but sweet, track that could quite easily soundtrack a motion picture showing the motion picture of the night before. Hindsight visuals could be represented alongside the delicate audio and this is what makes their sophomore full length so brilliant.
With the likes of Elvis Depressedly and Salvia Palth setting the bar in recent years for the lesser known, not as mainstream as DeMarco lo-fi scene it takes an outstanding record to put yourself in that category, but what we have here is something that has stuck to what it knows and not tried to reinvent the wheel or head so off-piste that the core of Soccer Mommy is diluted and replaced with something that does not reflect their style. Benadryl Dreams is the only song featured on the album that comes anywhere close to high profiler Mac DeMarco’s recent releases and it is quite refreshing to hear someone follow up and album without going for the spangly, jizz-jazz approach.
Musically, it is all pretty expected, to be honest. Muffled drums in the background while weaving hooks connect verse to chorus to bridge – not a bad thing, of course. There are, without a doubt, thousands of other Bandcamp artists that could have put this record out and if you are not familiar with traits or signature marks from them it would be near impossible to see any differences. Lo-fi is brilliant for that, though, it forces bands to make a name for themselves and inject their music with quirks and notable features.
With this attempt at ‘making it’ in the scene, Soccer Mommy have opted for frequent stabbing synthesisers and intriguing, mopey vocals coming together in perfect harmony as their ‘mark,’ so to say. Death by Chocolate is the ever-questioning synth laced ballad delicately gluing harmonies to tale-telling lyrics with glistening hooks. Similarly to Waiting For Cars, Death by Chocolate comes to its end after four minutes and it is then that the arrangement sticks with you in an irritating “oh, God! What is THAT song?!”
Overall, for a sophomore record and one that could easily have been overlooked if Sophie Allison hadn’t created an audience over the past handful of years on Bandcamp; it is like any other lo-fi record. Mostly predictable and as mentioned, not reinventing the wheel, there are moments where you go “ooooh” to make Collection well worth a listen.