in Compare/Contrast

Lucy Dacus – Historian / Soccer Mommy – Clean

Is it a bit reductive to be comparing the likes of Lucy Dacus and Soccer Mommy, two young singer-songwriters who seem to possess boundless potential? Perhaps. But then again, the conceit of this Compare/Contrast feature was to explore the idea that lots of art and pop culture gets compared to itself, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If anything, the fact that two uniquely fantastic albums anchored by two superb songstresses were released within weeks, just continues the hopeful theory I’d laid down in a past podcast that the future of rock is decidedly female.

Though, the most prominent reason for me comparing these two albums is they occupy a pretty similar space in rock singer-songwriterdom, defined by what could be described as triumphant melancholy. I suppose Lucy Dacus’s Historian is the one that sounds slightly more triumphant, but also more melancholy at the same time. This isn’t too surprising, considering it’s Dacus’s second album, and therefore has the air of a developing musical voice becoming more confident in both her songwriting and her band’s musicianship. Though maybe her sound was already fully-formed on her first album. I wouldn’t know, since I was too arrogant to take note of it making my colleague Sean Lemme’s Top Ten Albums of 2016.

Probably the two biggest examples of Dacus’s prowess as a songwriter are the epic-ish “Night Shift” that opens the album, or the 7-minute “Pillar of Truth” that even manages to weave a bit of a classic soul into Dacus’s indie rock pyrotechnics. Also, there is no smooth way of fitting in this bit of information, but according to Dacus’s wikipedia page, former vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine is a fan, which I think officially makes him the politician with the best taste in music this side of Obama.

Clean by Soccer Mommy doesn’t quite have the expansive scope of Historian, due to its “bedroom rock” aesthetic that was briefly discussed on an upcoming Rokk Talk. The world of Soccer Mommy is a small one, full of a kind of precious introspection, and thoughts and ideas that singer/songwriter Sophie Allison seems to be clutching softly against her chest. It’s not a surprise Allison has toured with Soccer Mommy in support of artists like Frankie Cosmos and Jay Som, since there’s clearly a certain amount of confessional intimacy embodied by these artists.

But that isn’t to say that Clean is all inward-looking mopery.  Allison seems to have an affinity for the more pleasant elements of ’90s pop/rock, and that shines through in songs like “Cool” or “Last Girl”. Which is why I’m a bit hesitant to relegate Soccer Mommy merely to the melancholy category, since she seems to be fighting that melancholy with optimism throughout the album, and often times comess out on top. And as both these albums demonstrate, sometimes that can be the hardest, but also the most fruitful fight of all.