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For Sophie Allison, color theory is a distillation of hard-won catharsis. “I wanted the experience of listening to color theory to feel like finding a dusty old cassette tape that has become messed up over time, because that’s what this album is: an expression of all the things that have slowly degraded me personally,” Allison says. “The production warps, the guitar solos occasionally glitch, the melodies can be poppy and deceptively cheerful. To me, it sounds like the music of my childhood distressed and, in some instances, decaying.”
Clean demonstrated Allison’s nuanced approach to lyricism and her disinterest in reducing complex emotional worlds into easily-digestible sound bites. On it, she projected the image of a confused but exceedingly mature teenager -- the type to offer up life-saving advice while cutting class under the bleachers. While still a clear successor to Clean and a quintessential Soccer Mommy album, color theory ’s sonic landscape is much more vast and dextrous, illustrating how much Allison has evolved as a musician and matured as a person over the past year.
The melodies on color theory shimmer on the surface, but they reveal an unsettling darkness with each progressive listen. The album is thematically subdivided into three sections, each of which is named for a color that distills the mood Allison wanted to freeze in time. We begin with blue, a color that evokes a certain melancholy, and for Allison, illuminates depressive episodes and memories of inflicting self-harm. The next section is represented by yellow, a color that points to illness, both mental and physical. “My mom has been terminally ill since I was a pre-teen, and I never really found a way to deal with it,” Allison says. The final section, represented by gray, addresses that fear of loss directly. “Watching my parents age and witnessing sickness take its toll made me think a lot about the cycle of life, and forced me to confront the paranoid sense that death is coming for me,” Allison says. But it’s not all tragic; moments of lightness appear on this album, too. Wise beyond her years, Allison is a songwriter capable of capturing the fleeting moments of bliss that make an embattled existence temporarily beautiful. With color theory , Allison’s fraught past becomes a lens through which we might begin to understand what it means to be resilient.
color theory investigates a traumatic past in exacting detail; in doing so, Allison finds inroads for healing through self-acceptance, and occasionally, humor. This isn’t a quest to uncover some long-since forgotten happiness so much as it is an effort to stare-down the turmoil of adolescence that can haunt a person well into adulthood. Allison is a gifted storyteller, one who is able to take personal experience and project it to universal scale. On color theory , she beckons in outsiders, rejects, and anyone who has ever felt desperately alone in this world, lending them a place to unburden themselves and be momentarily free.