Soft Spots by Adult Mom
by Kelli Galayda
Three years ago, in the bedroom of Stephanie Knipe, the puzzle pieces of Adult Mom started fitting together. Knipe, a New York native who identifies as genderqueer, began using music on their journey of self-discovery as a way to formulate their thoughts and make sense of the person they saw themselves to be. This journey eventually led to Soft Spots, Adult Mom’s second studio album with their label, Tiny Engines. The record is a glimpse into Knipe’s private diary, full of musings on life, love, and the formation of self-identity.
The opening track of Soft Spots, “Ephemeralness,” is exactly what it describes itself to be: short moments, stabs of happiness, of clarity, of memory. The song itself is intensely ephemeral, lasting only two minutes and fifteen seconds, but it packs in as many emotional snapshots as it can in such little time. The lyrics wrap themselves around you and emanate warmth; lines such as, “If you feel like nothing / I’ll tell you that you are something / And you’ll believe me instead,” string together a safety nest that mimics the comfort of your loved one’s arms.
In a bit of contrast, up next comes “Full Screen”: the embodiment of everything that is pop-punk. It has the perfect mix of angsty guitars, head bopping drums, and meditative lyrics dripping with a thirst for revenge; all of the components that made you fall in love with pop punk back in the early 2000s. The attitude and instrumentals are reminiscent of young Paramore, who also mixed societal issues with personal gripes through their intricate lyrics. In this spirit, Knipe anxiously questions, “And in romantic comedies / Do you project my genderless body / Onto the girl who loves you / For what you were? / What about me?," prodding at the past and pondering whether or not their lost love experiences this same kind of haunting, relentless pain. Knipe continues, “I wasted the warmer months / Feeling sad about you / But nature doesn’t get to choose,” exemplifying the irresistibility of wrapping yourself in the love of your past, the way it takes hold of you, and makes itself impossible to break. “Full Screen” has the upbeat sound and frustration fueled lyrics that make it the break-up song we all needed to carry us through the warmer months.
Similarly to “Full Screen,” more revenge seeps through with “Steal The Lake From The Water.” Knipe’s hollow voice outlines the anger they are drowned in, how their love doesn’t believe they can’t swim, how they cannot possibly breathe in any more water. “I emerge wet and screaming bloody murder / And you might say I make myself / Into a marginal victim / A baby crying hard until I get what I want.” Knipe knows that they need to be pulled above the surface, that if the roles were reversed, they’d be diving into the abyss to save their love, but their love has no plans to get his hair wet, singing, “Every screaming man gets what / He wants and doesn’t know the difference / Between what he wants and thinks he needs.” He doesn't know what he wants, yet he expects everyone else to.
After “Full Screen,” Knipe moves into the sentimental side of the break-up experience. They remember the good times, the times that perhaps weren’t perfect but felt perfect because of the love that was present. Knipe says, “I got robbed by the J Station / I labeled you as a bad omen / Did you see me hide under my scarf to cry / As you rubbed my back and said / ‘You look beautiful tonight’,” an example of the healing power of words and the person who says them. By the end of the song, Knipe is illuminating honesty, murmuring, “I’ll be sad you were ever in my life in the first place,” revealing how they are still seething with resentment over the entire relationship, how the good times are not worth the struggle that ended them.
The following track, “Patience,” oozes awe-inducing, raw emotion. It is the kind of song that forces you to stop and listen, to engulf yourself in its warmly sincere romanticism and sink into its melody. It chronicles patience; the way love requires attention and time to make itself work, the way the little things build themselves together to create something much larger. “And you yell at cars in the street / But you, you are / Patient with me / And I know, I know / I am distracted easily / But sometimes I swear / You are the only thing I see.” The song hums along like a Keats poem, beating to the rhythm of the heart, pulling at the strings of every fragile artery.
Then comes “Tenderness,” an upbeat lullaby that flows like a children’s book. It’s a Dr. Seuss melody with sing-song lyrics that become more meaningful with each listen—“I feel softness in your eyes / The warmth of brown / I feel softness everywhere.” Knipe’s gentle vocals blend with tender guitars that eventually peel back layers of punk as the song progresses. Backup voices complete the atmosphere of comfort, crafting a fully rounded ensemble that floats seamlessly until the tune finally fades out.
Adult Mom slows it down on the next song, “Same,” easing into a steady acoustic rhythm that rocks the listener into a dreamlike state. It touches the “soft spots” of the soul, the deepest parts that have been forever marked with the footprints of those who walked along our shared paths. “And you took a hard squeeze / At the soft spots of my body / And these spots will remain / Touched in vain / And oh, I will / Apologize until I am ill / And oh, I will / Take the blame / And you will stay the same”—to us, those marks will always stay, but to others, they may fade away.
Questions of self-validation and the shaping of individual identity are raised through the next track, “Drive Me Home.” Knipe prods at self-worth and personal desires versus necessities by asking, “If I’m a man will you hate me? / And If I’m good / If I’m good will you validate me? / And the selfish ways I claim my space / And the violent ways space I can’t make / I am pushed into a place I can’t breathe / I can’t tell if the want justifies the need.” We are all constantly on a search for self-validation, so these truthful lyrics ring with us, and remind us of those moments in which all we have the will to do is strive to be society’s definition of better, to fit into the role the world has set for us. We feel selfish when we claim a space for ourselves, a space in which we can be our true selves, as we are often taught that self-care is the equivalent of being self-absorbed. We need help remembering to hold on to that space, as Knipe explains, “Validate me / And create the space / I can’t make.”
Soft Spots dwindles to its end with “First Day of Spring.” Self-reflective, poetic lyrics purr over dream-inducing instrumentals, inspiring images of snow-covered flowers and cold suburban streets. Knipe confesses how they don’t feel deserving of better days, saying, “It snowed a week ago / On the first day of spring / Like me it was not ready for / The warmth despite all its waiting / I have not felt cold enough / I don’t want the gift.” The song grasps the feeling of underwhelm, of not being enough for someone you love: “I wish I was thawed / I’ll give you all of me / But right now it isn’t much.” It tires itself out at the end, symbolic of winter’s close, when all that is left is exhaustion from the cold. “And the sun burns too hot / I burn myself too hot / The slap of winter is too much / Too much / To recover,” and the warmth of light feels out of place.
If there’s any new band that you’re going to add to your radar, it should be Adult Mom. Soft Spots is a necessary collection of music that touches on relevant and relatable subjects, like romantic turmoil and self-discovery, while forcing us to take a look at ourselves and genuinely think. It asks us to consider how certain experiences help to shape us into the people we are, and how other people help push us forward on our journey of self-discovery. Not only is it a whirlwind instrumentally, but instrumentally, this record is pure poetry; opening parts of the heart that could only be unlocked with the powerful sentiments provided through Soft Spots. It is raw, unfiltered, pure honesty.
— Kelli Galayda is a recent graduate of Monmouth University, where she studied Communications and served as the Editor in Chief of The Verge, an online student-run magazine. Currently, she works as a freelance photographer, writer, and artist. You can follow her on Instagram @kkagey, or find her writing at kgalayda.wordpress.com.