Soft Spots is the second album from Steph Knipe and her band. I guess the project is a trio with both Bruce Hamilton and Liv Battell now listed on the FaceBook page. The press material still talks about Knipe recording the first few EPs by herself in her bedroom, but i guess the band is FaceBook official now...
Astute readers of this site will remember that i reviewed their debut Momentary Lapse of Happily back in 2015.
It has taken me a bit longer to get around to reviewing this album. On the one hand, Adult Mom is a typical folk-pop project, making music that hundreds (thousands?) of other acts make. I get lots of promos of this kind of thing, and there is a sense that Soft Spots is just one more album of someone with a guitar whining about life. And yet...
And yet there is something to these songs. Steph Knipe and her band make a catchy tune, and that keeps me coming back more often than most similar acts.
So after spending a bit of time with this record, i can say that i think that Adult Mom has grown as a project. I like what they are doing here. I like Ms. Knipe's quirky voice as well as her lyrics, and i like that on this record Liv Battell adds a lot more vocal harmonies.
The album kicks off with Ephemeralness, a term which could also be used as a sort of slogan for any number of bands, a one word description of what they are striving for. Adult Mom consider this with picked guitar, Knipe's voice wandering, and Battell keeping pace. They add in drum and bass after a minute or so. This is a really pretty song.
Song two starts off with the whole band playing a nice poppy riff, and it is a happy fun pop tune. Then Knipe sings, "Do you full screen your porn / do you think about me as you watch her crawl across the floor". Um. Eww. No. Okay, so kind of disturbing lyrics, but Adult Mom play this as a great pop tune, and do a damned good job of it. The call the song Full Screen, so that you can think about that line and the images it entails whenever you look at the album...
J Station has a nice insistent rhythm, Knipe's voice kind of skipping along (very Suzanne Vega like here) as the beat really drives the tune along. Patience is about four minutes of verse-chorus-verse song structure. Adult Mom don't normally fall into such a "normal" vein, and this song works just okay. Not their best work, but i have certainly heard worse tunes.
Adult Mom crank it up for Tenderness. This is a mid-tempoed song, but in the middle Knipe stomps on a distortion pedal and the song gets noisier than anything else here. It really works. I like the contrast between the pretty part of the song and the angrier, more distorted part. Well done.
Knipe gets back to her roots with Same, which is delicate guitar and the voice extra quirky and all over the place. This is a well done folk tune, with Battell's backing vocals and keys joining in at strategic moments for maximum prettiness.
I like the title of the next tune: Steal The Lake From The Water. I guess this a song about Dutch-ness, since that seems to be what the Dutch do. But the song is a nice rocker with Knipe's voice distorted (for once), the drums louder and cascading, and everything a little overdriven. It reminds me of mid 1990s indie pop.
Drive Me Home has a see-sawing keyboard riff that reminds me of something from the late 70s/early 80s. The keys are definitely the center here, almost channeling IDM in a slight way. Not that Adult Mom is suddenly doing Autechre here -- this is a slightly rocking folk tune with some odd keyboards in it. But well done.
And then the album ends with First Day of Spring, a song that seems very generic for what Adult Mom are doing. It's pretty enough, but not spectacular.
Still, it's a very engaging record. I look forward to seeing what Knipe and co will do next.