Photo by Daniel Dorsa
The stage name Adult Mom suits Steph Knipe quite well. Their lyrics make them seem like a wise friend, a seasoned someone who you turn to for advice when times are tough.
On Adult Mom’s debut album, Momentary Lapse of Happily, (released July 28 on Tiny Engines Records) Knipe sings songs about relationships, gender, and sexuality. These songs are tied together by the central idea that our innermost selves are not static and are often contradictory.
Many times throughout Momentary Lapse of Happily light, cheerful pop melodies are contrasted with dark lyrics. The album opens with Be Your Own 3 AM, a track with eerie, airy harmonies. The song then evolves into choppy, upbeat guitar chords. “Now I hold my own hands/In crowds of bands and my friends,” Knipe sings. That line sticks with me—it shows growth towards self-assuredness and a supportive community, but it’s not overly sappy in any way. At many times in the song, dark, yet extremely relatable lyrics are juxtaposed over upbeat drum patterns and synth sounds. On the second track, Survivor, Knipe proclaims, “I cure the pores in my skin/I leave no room for anything/I survive because I have died” over bubbly synths. The song alludes to the importance of identifying one’s strength and the importance of self-care.
The first time that I heard Knipe perform live was on an impromptu solo performance on the video chat service Tinychat. It was the golden hour in mid-July, during the summer before I started college. I was sitting in downtown Seattle with a girl I had a crush on, eating partially melted gummy bears that stuck to our fingers. I was completely overtaken by the moment. I felt a deep connection with Knipe’s angst-tinged lyrics and the fuzzy acoustic guitar. I saw myself constantly questioning my identity and my direction as an individual. I was looking for inspiration. Knipe spoke to that perfectly—while listening to the music, it seemed as if I was wholly composed despite feeling like a bundle of contradictions. I relished that memory: my sticky fingers, the whiz of passing cars, and Steph’s cooing voice and soft strumming.
Looking back at myself almost a year later, I have come to realize that none of my emotions or identities are fixed. In Told Ya So, over upbeat, pop-y drums, Knipe states, “It is okay to feel the world” and that “It is okay to feel doubt/just know you’re going to find a way out.” Momentary Lapse of Happily’s lyrics embrace the exciting, nerve-wracking, ambiguity and contradictive nature of personhood, and allow us to savor life’s too-short and sweet moments.