“And I got a heart that beats too fast,” Sophie Allison informs us on her third album as Soccer Mommy. “And a shake in my hands and a pain in my back.” The song is called “Feel It All the Time,” a perfect example of her ability at channeling her complicated, contradictory feelings into perfectly crafted pop songs. As on her previous albums, Allison’s métier is tense, dreamily lush Nineties indie rock, with echoes of Liz Phair, Helium, and other artists who specialized in making secret sharing seem like community building. On Sometimes, Forever, every languid lyric and opaque melody feels strategically placed with care and concern.
With its hefty bass and foreboding feel, “Shotgun” maps out an unhealthy relationship (“I like dessert and alcohol/And watching as you get drunk,” she sings), but when the chorus opens up, it’s like a sunrise after a long, hard night. “Bones” meanders beautifully through its admission of self-doubt, the guitars buzzing, sparkling, and burning like faint candles of hope, turning the realization “I’m gone” into something like a separate peace.
The album has moments that move away from guitar pop entirely, often into darker sonic territory. Songs like “Darkness Forever” are a kind of artfully hobbled trip-hop detour, as well as the grim experimental abstraction “Unholy Affliction.” Some of the highlights, like the surreptitiously lovely “Following Eyes,” balance those murky undercurrents with the sharp, bright choruses she does so well. Allison might think “I don’t know how to feel things small,” as she sings with breathless urgency against the curt acoustic strumming of “Still.” But on Sometimes, Forever she turns that problem into a source of strength.