Adult Mom’s latest is a lyrically-tight exploration of shared human bonds under the weight of a failed system.
Adult Mom’s third record, Driver, brings with it a reminder of the talent behind Stevie Knipe’s project chronicling awkward experiences and the intimate details of everyday life. Knipe’s stream of consciousness songwriting style remains engaging to listen to, and when combined with soft guitar strums and the occasional drum machine, lends an almost meditative feel, even as the lyrics regularly scan off as distressing or even a plea for help. This relatable, raw honesty is hard-won, especially in the music industry’s present penchant for commodification, and keeps Adult Mom feeling fresh even now.
Driver kicks off, fittingly, with “Passenger,” a reflection on a brief relationship that is indicated to have ended poorly: “On the cusp of the state line / New England to Westchester / On the cusp of loving / And resenting each other.” The track demonstrates Knipe’s (as narrator) progression from being the less-interested party, taking the necessary steps to open up emotions to another individual, to gradually becoming the one who is more invested in the relationship. The album is filled with these kinds of familiar, crushing realities, elsewhere notable on “Breathing”: after lamenting that “My finger’s on the response message / Watching the cursor float / I am isolating in every corner of my house it’s not pretty and it / feels like I’m locked in myself,” they follow up later on the track with, “I am nothing special Just an emotional vessel So covers up / Hide myself.” Elsewhere, “Sober” deals with a former relationship scarred by substance abuse and the subsequent damage — “And the last image of me you remember / Is my hunched over back on the driver’s side / Begging you to get out when you said that you wanted to die” — while the album’s closing track, “Frost,” leans heavily into the drums and backing guitars that the newly-added full band affords, and describes the aftermath of a car accident, in emotional, physical, and financial terms.
And it’s precisely this universality that makes Adult Mom such an interesting listen. The empathic writing results from an understanding that everyone is being crushed by the same system, all of it playing out in a world that doesn’t prioritize mental health care, that doesn’t provide appropriate help to those struggling with substance use, and that makes sure to deliver a hospital bill after a traumatic accident. Knipe writes of the miseries and pangs that connect and unite us in class solidarity. But even in the wake of this failed system, Knipe is able to situate their lyrics in a middle ground, linking with the listener through shared experience all while refraining from any didacticism. Here, lines flow comfortably and easily together, and Driver is ultimately an album of connection, one that speaks with specificity to our moment in time, and a necessary listen in 2021.
Published as part of Album Roundup — March 2021 | Part 1.