Soccer Mommy - “Color Theory” (Loma Vista ***)
Sophie Allison is a young star with an old soul.
In 2017, she dropped out of New York University and moved back home to Nashville, Tenn., after her deceptively calm, arresting songs earned her a record deal with the Fat Possum label.
The next year, her “Clean” debut as Soccer Mommy immediately established her as one of the leading songwriters of her generation, starting with the lead single “Your Dog” that thrillingly turned the tables on Iggy Pop’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”
With her “Color Theory” follow-up to that impressive entrance, Allison is shooting still higher. Teaming again with producer Gabe Wax, who’s worked with Philadelphia’s the War On Drugs, among others, she’s structured the album in three color-coded parts. Blue represents depression; yellow, physical and mental illness; gray, darkness and loss.
The colors are muted on the album — the cover art is packaged to look like a vintage cassette — and so are the arrangements, which are more polished, reflecting a growing comfort level in the recording studio.
The smooth surfaces can’t hide what’s roiling underneath, however. She’s unforgiving, gazing in the mirror in “Royal Screw Up.” “Nightswimming,” which borrows a title from an R.E.M. song, captures the distance that technology can create for two people otherwise alone: “The bruises show/ Standing in the living room talking, as you’re staring at your phone.”
“Yellow Is The Color Of Her Eyes” is a seven-minute heartbreaker about her mother’s cancer. It’s ultimately inconsolable — “Loving you is not enough/ You’ll still be in the ground when it’s done” — and a powerful centerpiece to the album. — Dan DeLuca
Bad Bunny - “YHLQMDLG” (Rimas ****)
In the time since Spanish flamenco-pop star Rosalia unveiled her astonishing 2018 album “El Mar Querer,” her more straightforward collaborator Benito Ocasio (known as Bad Bunny) has released no fewer than three albums, including his acclaimed debut “X 100pre” and the surprise J Balvin team-up “Oasis.”
The 26-year-old Puerto Rican icon finally delivers on the third, “YHLQMDLG,” his best work by far, which has already set Billboard records as the highest-charting all-Spanish-language album ever.
For 20 unstoppable tracks lasting over an hour, Bad Bunny plays Nintendo bossa nova on “Si Veo a Tu Mama,” blows a speaker rocking out on “Hablamos Manana,” and imbues his pitch-corrected reggaeton with much melody in between. You’ll hum the hooks of “Pero Ya No,” “Una Vez,” and “P FKN R” — whether you can understand them or not. The title, “YHLQMDLG,” is an acronym for “I Do What I Want” en espanol. As with Billie Eilish almost exactly one year ago, the breakthrough pop event of 2020 has come early. — Dan Weiss
Aubrie Sellers - “Far From Home” (Soundly Music ***1/2)
Aubrie Sellers opens “Far From Home” with the title song, a slow, ethereal number with folk underpinnings that exudes an old-as-the-hills vibe. Then, just as you’re lulled, she tears into “My Love Will Not Change,” a raw, thumping rocker with attitude as sharp-edged as the music (and a guest vocal by Steve Earle). In other words, Sellers, the daughter of country/Americana star Lee Ann Womack, picks up where she left off on 2016’s excellent “New City Blues.”
Brash and beguiling, urban and rural, she works the extremes and makes them seem of a piece. The whiplash effect can be thrilling: the slow, gentle “Worried Mind” segueing into the feisty, roots-rocking “Drag You Down,” the almost industrial thrash of “Glad” (“I’m glad that you broke this heart of mine”) giving way to the openhearted yearning of “Haven’t Even Kissed Me Yet.” All in all, it’s an audacious, yet seemingly effortless achievement that should have Sellers, in the words of one song title, “Going Places.” — Nick Cristiano
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