When Soft Spots was announced, I’d just about forgotten about Adult Mom. Sure, Steph Knipe’s project had some catchy tunes, and they released one of my favorite records of 2015, but looking back on Momentary Lapse of Happily, it’s replay value was limited save for a few songs. Knipe has not only improved as a songwriter, they’re much more vulnerable and personable on Soft Spots.
The most noticeable change to this Adult Mom album is the warmth of the production. “J Station” is incredibly homey, while narrating a despondent breakup. Even the closing track, “First Day of Spring,” despite Knipe discussing their not being ready for warmth, sounds like a friendly record to play under your covers on a cold day. “Full Screen” has many more fleshed out tones than the barebones of Happily. The touches of xylophone and synthesizer expand the track in the minutest way to perfectly compliment Knipe’s melancholy acoustic song. “Drive Me Home” is another example of a song that builds around Knipe’s repetitive, manic vocals.
Besides being a better sounding record, Knipe is much better as a lyricist on Soft Spots. There are much fewer cheeky, cliché references like “it’s okay to kiss girls!” on Happily, but there’s still a tongue-in-cheek nature to a song like “Full Screen,” which begins with Knipe asking:
“Do you full screen your porn?
Do you think about me
as you watch her crawl across the floor”
A song like “J Station” shows Knipe developing stories through their songs recalling one more go with an old lover, but ends with perhaps the coldest line of the album: “I’ll be sad you were ever in my life in the first place.” Knipe’s vocal performances on these songs are much more emotive than on their debut or Sometimes Bad Happens, and it really puts Adult Mom ahead as an interesting artist within the punk community.
On their second full-length, Adult Mom really takes the next step into creating remarkably comforting music. Listening to this record sounds like the way Chris Gethard describes The Smiths during Career Suicide, as the type of music that could only grow and the meaning could expand through the ages, as a constant spot that only grows to take on new meanings as you grow older.