May 19, 2017

LP: Adult Mom - Soft Spots

Examining all of our soft spots with Adult Mom.

Adult Mom makes music that demands to be heard, while still remaining gentle and approachable. Their new album Soft Spots explores queer identify and the raw power of vulnerability, and ultimately the quest to be seen and understood. The title Soft Spots refers to literal and metaphorical bruises, like on a peach or person, where rot and pain has already taken hold. Adult Mom soundtracks the process of slowly testing these injuries to explore the full extent of the damage in order to finally heal. These points of trauma are “soft spots that need to be found.” It’s a comforting record, like a warm blanket on a surprisingly chilly spring day or a long soak in a scented bath.

Adult Mom started as the lo-fi solo project of Steph Knipe, and while the band has grown in size and fidelity, the music keeps that same whispered intimacy of bedroom recordings. The guitars are often acoustic, and Knipe still provides their own hummed and wordless harmonies. Keyboards and chimes ring in, sometimes flashing out in front like the ascending scale on “Same” but mostly providing background ambiance. Even when the guitars get some teeth, they never snarl. Instead, on songs like “Tenderness,” Adult Mom utilizes loudness to burst into full bloom. The album never gets caught up in rage - “Anger is not for the body” Knipe advises on “Same”- but calmly continues to explain itself. Adult Mom exists in a DIY ecosystem where heartfelt emotions and small-life details hold sway over twee-esque guitars, like when they name-check innocuous NYC locations on "J Train." Knipe created their own lane in term of lyricism, drawing the occasional influence from Kimya Dawson's brand of hyper speak and Frankie Cosmos’ coy couplets. Knipe’s verses and choruses unfurl in complete sentences, only rhyming on the very last word, if at all. They’re begging to be stick-n-poke tattoos.

Initial single “Full Screen” is still a standout, questioning if a potential partner could love you when you defy conventional ideas about gender. "Do you full screen your porn, do you think about me as your watch her crawl across the floor? / And in romantic comedies, do you project my genderless body on to the girl / Who loves you for what you were?” Knipe wonders. Even if you don't identify as non-binary, you can relate to Knipe’s anxiety of falling short of a partner's expectations. We all have these anxious thoughts in a relationship - I’m hopelessly in love with you, but could you even love someone like me? Do you know how? There’s a deeper desire than just finding sustainable romance in this song. There’s the need to be taken seriously as a full human being, someone to consider. “Will I be seen?” the first chorus asks. When the answer is yes, Adult Mom respond with a starry-eyed love song such as “Patience.” This quest for visibility, and more importantly to be understood, pops up again on “Steal The Lake from the Water.” “You call drowning swimming as you watch me swallow water,” Knipe sings. Being queer is often screaming at people who would rather ignore us, and Adult Mom captures how lonely this existence can be. Knipe turns those rare moments of recognition over and over again, when “sometime when we’re walking you are further ahead of me and you step back to meet me.” Even when we get the kind of understanding and empathy we so desperately need, it can be startling. “First Day of Spring” goes over the trauma of being told you don’t matter - “the slap of winter is too much, too much to recover” – and the shock to the heart when you're told that you do - “Like me it wasn’t ready for the warmth despite all it’s waiting.” Soft Spots is Knipe's quiet triumph of learning to heal in the face of trauma, and the rest of us are better for it.


Listen to Adult Mom on bandcamp


Mo is a writer who can be spotted at the gig dancing like a squid. Follow him on twitter @sadgayfriendx. He also helps books shows at a Brooklyn house venue called The Bronze.