With Soft Spots, Adult Mom returns with an exploration of vulnerability, of opening up to tenderness, and of recovering from trauma.
It’s an honest take on the journey to love and acceptance, with gender identity and queerness woven tightly throughout. With a move toward a more mature sound, Adult Mom displays a notable growth from their debut, marking themselves as a band to watch.
What started as a bedroom solo project by Steph Knipe has grown into a full band, and their latest album delivers a more textured sound than their previous work. The bright, confident tone of livelier tracks like “Full Screen” and “J Station” becomes stripped-down and delicate on softer tracks like “Same” and “First Day of Spring”, with Knipe’s warm, earnest vocals uniting the palette.
The album feels transient, each track a flicker of color as the scene starts to shift. Pain lingers but never feels heavy or stagnant, and a thread of recovery runs through even the darkest moments.
The record begins softly with “Ephemeralness”, a track that sounds exactly as a tranquil summer morning feels. Knipe’s voice drifts lightly above a delicate interplay of guitars:
When I feel like nothing/Please tell me that I am something /And I’ll believe you instead.
An offbeat rhythm in the drums soon enters, punctuating the guitar, and that singularly quiet moment drifts away.
The album’s first single, “Full Screen”, is an upbeat, catchy track with a boisterous sound and sharp lyrics. There’s a combination of humor and tragedy to the vocals, the latter masked by the infectious nature of the sound. “I loved you more / Than I wanted to / But she says that we / Just don’t get to choose,” comes just before an interlude of laughter and unintelligible dialogue.
“J Station”, is the logical continuation, one last revisit to a relationship that has already ended. It’s a night spent wandering through the city, trying to revive a relationship before realizing for the final time it wouldn’t work out. Despite being a calmer track, an insistent guitar rhythm drives it forward.
“Patience” and “Tenderness” are sweet interjections on finding love despite traumatic experiences. In “Tenderness”, vulnerabilities are more than just a weakness, and “soft spots” become a space for affection. Each hit of the chorus is a moment of triumph, the vocals and guitar strong and clear.
“Same” is an understated track, but easily the most powerful. It’s a reflection on abuse, and Knipe’s voice is faded and distant as they carefully deliver poignantly charged lyrics. With its stripped-down accompaniment, the track is magnified in its smallness.
Following this, “Steal the Lake From the Water”, is a much needed cathartic break. It’s an angry anthem brimming with political acuity and no small trace of irony. “Drive Me Home” is an anxious search for an identity that fits and a desperate plea for validation. As the track builds, increasingly insistent, overlapping vocals highlight the sharpness of the need.
The album closer, “First Day of Spring”, is a soft sigh of hope. The vocals are close and intimate, merging easily with warm and relaxed backup harmonies, and the accompaniment is soft and light.
It snowed a week ago/On the first day of spring/Like me it was not ready for/The warmth despite all its waiting.
Recovery isn’t instantaneous, not even when a source of healing is right there. But with a willingness to try, Soft Spots suggests, eventually it will come.
You can see Adult Mom live at Double Happiness in Columbus on June 30. You can also listen to them below.