Their first album in three years, Adult Mom emerges with Driver, a half-hour of physical and emotional movement rooted in acknowledgment. The collection works towards a journey of new confidence, like replacing old batteries.
While their previous albums gripped onto the glory of instrumental imperfections, the band’s third full-length exudes a natural, growing upgrade without overproduction. It’s fittingly flawless, yet still cradles a strong vestige of their gritty bedroom pop sound.
It’s this living room atmosphere where couches and bookshelves muffle noise, a zipper cracks on a windbreaker or someone shuts the door mid-set. But we choose to ignore it. And while that landscape still exists, those external DIY sounds evaporate into more of an imaginative gesture in the new record.
There’s focus on the driving metaphor. It’s a consistent trope, underpinning movement so growth can be reimagined. And singer-songwriter Stevie Knipe owns this. They make driving literal; locations are marked, images like a hunched back of a past lover in the passenger seat are accentuated, and songs playing in car speakers are brought back into consciousness.
The opening track “Passenger” is the first experiment. Presented in the past tense, Knipe sings “On the cusp of the state line / New England to Westchester / On thе cusp of loving / And resenting each other” exploring volatile expectations of the in-between. However, old expectations are fertile soil for proactive growing. There is no growth without working to understand the past. And in doing so, the car plays the vehicle in more than one way. It carries the old, but also harbors responsibility for its release.
Many of the tracks detail retrospective thoughts or the flow of an internal monologue as events unfold. For instance, Knipe sings “Your arm brushed mine as you / Reaching over me to grab your water” in “Wisconsin” or “a stranger gave us a beer / in the hallway of your bathroom” in “Berlin” as a way to walk listeners through the development of a memory. It’s never consistent, but that unpredictability aligns once the driver gives it the authority to do so.
In “Adam,” Knipe sings “I thought about the first girl I kissed was a girl I wanted to kiss / But not the first girl I wanted to kiss” and ends with “I see the girl I want to kiss / But I’m not sure if she wants to kiss / But at least I can ask without feeling like shit.” At the core, Knipe is realizing that someone was projecting their insecurities onto them all along.
A few years back, I saw Adult Mom play in Brooklyn. It was one of those premature summer nights where air weighed in the day but turned crisp by night. I walked from Manhattan to Williamsburg after a job interview, waited for a friend to finish a shoot outside a pizza shop and stuffed a blazer into my backpack.
The show was at a church lit up entirely purple. By mid-set, parts of the crowd stood up from their pews, piling to the front. Then suddenly, an entire church lifted, slowly, then all at once like a gust of wind cracking a window. We danced as each song echoed into the next. Everything else from that night was fuzzy. But I know I remembered the best parts.
Confidently at church, Adult Mom leaves an indelible mark – the urgency to free yourself in a place where you’re instructed to stay still.
Driver is out now on Epitaph Records.
Essential Tracks: “Passenger, “Wisconsin,” and “Adam”