Friday, January 31st, 2020

Soccer Mommy – Circle the Drain

Did not Usher in a top score; did yield a lot of writing…


[Video]
[7.73]

Ian Mathers: There’s a mandolin part (or something) peeking through the mix here in places that, combined with the dreamy listlessness of Sophie Allison’s lyrics and delivery, is giving me significant pangs of that ol’ devil nostalgia for both my past and the music of my past. Sometimes though, you just gotta go with it.
[9]

Vikram Joseph: Nostalgia is a hallucinogen; it blurs the distinction between times you miss and times you simply happen to remember more vividly than others, and, more disconcertingly, between places you have been and places that have only ever existed in your internal world. There’s something about “Circle The Drain” – with its soft golden hour hues, its fuzzy edges – that drives deep into whichever ganglion or cortex is responsible for nostalgia, and sends uncoordinated sparks and signals across its synapses, triggering a slideshow of fragmented memories that may or may not be memories at all. It reminds me of so many tangible things – the late 90s / early 00s guitar-pop of Natalie Imbruglia and Avril Lavigne, the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today”, and (strangest of all) second-tier Brit indie band Feeder’s tender teenage stoner anthem “High” – but also of so much that is unreachable and unnameable – walks home from nowhere, composite daydreams from a hundred train windows, summers disintegrating into the building blocks of memory. As if getting older isn’t frightening enough, if I have this much capacity for nostalgia at just past 30 won’t I be slowly crushed under its weight by 70? But for now, while I can still think of myself as young, I’m grateful for this song – a gorgeous, dreamy downer – and for the synthesis of new memories from the glowing rubble of ones that came before.
[9]

Leah Isobel: On my first day of work in the new decade, a customer yelled at me. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, and he wasn’t actually mad at me; he was hurt by something my boss had done, and I was just in the crosshairs. But what he said – the justified core of his anger – has stuck with me, like an ink I can’t wash off my hands. It’s followed me all month, keeping me from being present with my friends or honest with my parents or productive at my job. I haven’t been able to write about it, either; the helplessness, the horror, the rot I feel in my body. It feels a lot like the sick-sweet guitar decay in this song.
[9]

Julian Axelrod: Calling a song “passive” is rarely a complement, but everything about “Circle the Drain” feels detached in the best way. The sample-of-a-sample guitars fade in and out of focus, Sophie Allison’s numb sigh is couched in a week’s worth of reverb, and her verses frame summer love and self-immolation as equidistant unattainable ideals. It’s a song about depression, but it doubles as an interrogation of the “slacker rock” tag bands like Soccer Mommy so often fall under: Is this person stuck on the couch because they’re unambitious, or has the mold in their brain turned them to a bedridden husk of their usual chipper self? Everything around Allison is pristinely produced, which makes its passivity all the more pointed. As a great artist once said, “Do you think a depressed person could make this?
[7]

Nortey Dowuona: A nice, twee song about being sad. That’s it. that’s the tweet.
[9]

Katherine St Asaph: I cannot pinpoint, and it’s bugging me, what specific maybe-obvious riff this is biting. (My ears hear something like Kay Hanley’s Cherry Marmalade, and the duh answer is probably like Nirvana, but I think part of it is, of all things, Incubus’s “Drive”?) But I’ve listened to enough ’90s college-rock filler to recognize a clear improvement on it.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Nailing the early nineties college rock churn ‘n’ jangle as surely as “Lucy” did last year, “Circle the Drain” flirts more closely — more ominously — with the churn ‘n’ jangle that crossed over several years later: think Shawn Colvin, not Belly. Listeners may dig this direction. I say Soccer Mommy gets blanded out. 
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: Is that a banjo? Well, that’s unexpected. The guitar-plugged-into-a-sole-amp and ramshackle ’90s-Beck-ish drums, those are expected. But you can definitely hear the increased production budget on this, and I’m not 100% it’s for the better. 
[6]

Brad Shoup: The dream of Adult Alternative is alive and well and uncanny. The idea of daubing one’s emotional grayness into the short shadows of a deceptively summery pop rocker… I wasn’t sure that was a move anymore. 
[7]

Joshua Copperman: This doesn’t sound like a 90s radio hit, this sounds like 90s album filler. Okay, that’s a bit much. It sounds like it was there, but then someone at Loma Vista said ‘it’s 2020, music has been functional background noise for like four years now, take out everything interesting except for the delay spin in the second verse and the nifty tape flutter effect around four minutes in, don’t distract anyone’. There’s a synth pad at 1:15 that disappears by 1:20. The actual song is pretty great – I especially love the imagery of walking on a cable, depression being so debilitating that doing anything has the stakes of conducting the electric city. The top comment on eight-minute advance single “Yellow is the Color of Her Eyes” currently reads “If she went far enough, I think she would meet Chris Martin at the beach.” For “Circle The Drain,” I wish she did.
[6]

Michael Hong: Bubbly and burbly, “Circle the Drain” sounds exactly like that, a spinning whirlpool. Where Clean was blurred by the surrounding ennui of being a teenager with a crush, “Circle the Drain” marks a clear progression in Soccer Mommy’s sound, sounding more expansive and vibrant. You feel it in the twang of the looping guitar melody and in the shuffle of the backing beat. The background noise of Clean is washed away, reduced to a low fuzzy din and Soccer Mommy’s voice comes with reassuring elegance that suggests while you can fall apart in the spiral, there’s comfort to come when it does eventually end.
[9]

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I hate the game my mind plays with regards to my depression being “legitimate” enough. If things are OK and I don’t feel depressed: Great, but was I just dumb and emotional this whole time and my depression not actually real? When things are OK and I feel depressed: Not great, but at least I know my depression is… real? I don’t know. That I have such thoughts is an upsetting thing in and of itself, and the plainness with which Soccer Mommy talks about not wanting to remain strong for family and friends is a reminder of how debilitating life can be. That others feel that way makes me feel less alone. “Circle the Drain” is a song about being stuck, of being “chained” to your bed (please help me if I’m “napping” all the time). There’s a quiet appeal–a slacker glamour–that this song exudes, that captures the allure and sickness and banality of depression in the everyday.
[8]

Will Adams: The chorus is curious; the bridge sets up a clear launch, but at the cathartic moment the production falls away, to the point it feels like we’re getting a second verse. It’s not until the titular thinking appears (“round and around”) that the arrangement comes back into focus. It’s a neat trick. One that wears thin by the third time, but who am I to argue with a song that wraps me in the nostalgic comfort of Orange County radio and Daria commercial bumpers like this.
[8]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Soccer Mommy’s best songs capture the clarity of feeling like shit like no other artist’s do. It’s a hard feeling, the way that being lost and beaten-down create not any kind of moral righteousness but a shocking awareness. It’s everywhere on “Circle the Drain,” from the crunch of the intro guitars and the tinniness of the drum machine on the bridge to Allison’s vocal performance, which sounds at once both immediate and far away. But it’s there most in her songwriting, which Gabe Wax’s production only intensifies. The way that the second verse breaks from the figurative language of the first into stark, morbidly funny descriptions of mental illness and decay is arresting, and the way the song pushes through it, almost making the final choruses sound triumphant, is even more so.
[8]

Alex Clifton: “Circle the Drain” is a story of depression set to the warmest guitars I’ve heard this side of the nineties. It’s a beautifully neat trick to pull and Soccer Mommy here does so with aplomb–both aspects kept reeling me back in for second and third listens. Although the lyrics are sad, the feeling is ultimately uplifting. It’s okay if you are falling to pieces. A song like this will catch you.
[8]

Reader average: [2.5] (6 votes)

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3 Responses to “Soccer Mommy – Circle the Drain”

  1. Leah, I hope you’re doing ok and that things improve soon (via this song or… anything)

  2. thank you <3 i’m … not spiraling quite as hard now, i’m putting together an exit plan from this job which is helping. if nothing else it gave me a solid reason to leave and i’d been waiting for one!

  3. So glad to hear it!

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