Adult Mom returns with third album, ‘Driver’, and it’s a record that finds Stevie Knipe examing that awkward phase where you’ve hit 20-something, the bills are starting to pile up and you’re not entirely sure of your place in a ‘grown-up world’. The album finds Stevie trying to answer a question that has confounded generations: ‘What now?’
‘Passenger’ opens the records in thoughtful, folky fashion as Stevie looks back over personal memories that have left an emotional impact: ‘Do you remember your hand on my shoulder and the car in December driving to my parents’ house?’; ‘I was a passenger in your car and now I’m a ghost who won’t answer calls’; ‘That’s why I left you’. The potent emo hooks of ‘Wisconsin’ quickly follow and this song takes us on a melodic road trip with sweet back-and-forth vocals and emotional outpourings: ‘Last night I dreamt I was still in love with her’. ‘Breathing’ reminded us of the early 2010s chillwave scene with elements of latter-day Los Campesinos! – and yet again has Stevie looking back on past actions: ‘I can’t afford to pay so I hide it under a stack of things I’d rather not deal with’; ‘I’m isolating in every corner of my house, it’s not pretty’.
‘Berlin’ is filled with beautiful piano notes and drumbeats as Stevie nostalgically looks back on a time that shaped their life: ‘Today marks the sixth year since I first met you, a stranger gave us beer in the hallway’. Recent single ‘Sober’ – which contains one of the best lyrics of the year: ‘The only thing I’ve done this month is drink beer and masturbateand ignore phone calls from you’ – follows with its warts-and-all account of a difficult situation before Stevie details a car crash against a swoon-worth dream pop soundtrack on ‘Dancing’. ‘Adam’ is more anthemic with elements of Americana and Hold Steady-esque guitar work as Stevie remembers experiences that shaped their life – and how they now feel more comfortable identifying as queer: ‘If I was a little older, I’d hold your hand no doubt’; ‘I think about myself making lists of how I’m shit. God, I can be so relentless but at least I’m not afraid anymore I think. I’m dancing in the light with my friends’. This reflective and self-depreciating tone follows through on ‘Regret It’ and ‘Checking Up’ – the latter of which hits the sweet spot between Soccer Mommy and Jeffrey Lewis with its poignant honesty: ‘I am the one you think of when you think about the tthings you’ve done wrong in your life’ being swiftly corrected to ‘You’re the one I think of when I think about the things that I’ve done wrong before. When I’ve fucked up before in my life’.
The album closes with the chiming guitar sound of ‘Frost’ – another song detailing Stevie’s car crash and comparing it to navigating the confusion of modern-day relationships. Stevie talks about the physical and emotional toll these aspects have and although they claim ‘I’ve been dealing just fine’, it’s not delivered with utmost confidence. The final line of the record – ‘No one can let me out but myself’ – works as a pep talk to look towards better times ahead, but without forgetting the pain that gets you there.
With its raw observations and sweet hooks, ‘Driver’ is a beautiful record that will stop you in your tracks.