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Sweet vulnerability

Adult Mom is a band that is honest and emotional

Adult Mom makes songs that say what they mean with halting sweetness. Photo credit: Bao Ngo

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Honesty in music can be a hard row to hoe. In most cases, the verisimilitude of a song is just that: the appearance of truth. Even when uncomfortable things are being revealed, the rock star will tend to make themselves look good. There are lots of exceptions to the rule, though, with some artists going the extra mile to establish themselves as neither the hero nor the villain, just a person with flaws and desires like the rest of us.

I was first struck with this form when listening to Pulp, where Jarvis Cocker intermittently thought of himself as a skilled lothario and a damaged obsessive. Songs like "Pencil Skirt" pronounced his sexual acumen, while also highlighting how severely messed up a person has to be to view sex as a sport, or a method of retribution. "I Spy" found that same persona brought to its sociopathic edge. In other songs, like "A Little Soul" or "TV Movie," this injection of honesty shines a light on how devastating a life as a lothario can be, and makes every other song look desperately sad in hindsight.

New York quartet Adult Mom is certainly many degrees sunnier than Pulp, but they share sensibilities with that most forthright of bands. On their recent LP, Soft Spots, track two opens with the line, "Do you full-screen your porn? Do you think about me as you watch her crawl across the floor?" If the music and voices weren't so sweet and sugar-coated, this is a line that could easily be confused for one that Jarvis Cocker might purr in a lecherous tone.

In their actual sound, Adult Mom is a band that taps into ‘90s pop-punk, with songs sounding like they could've been the theme to a Joss Whedon show, or anything from the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I swear to God that that's a good thing. When Adult Mom is not on the pop-punk tip, they soften things to the point of deliriously sweet pop, almost tapping into the kind of radio-ready music that might have hit air waves in the early 2000s.

Adult Mom describe themselves as "queer, indie, bittersweet pop music," and that vulnerability and upfront emotionality comes through on every track. "Same," coming in just after the halfway point on Soft Spots, reaches the most tender core of what Adult Mom aims for, tapping a lo-fi sound that mixes beautifully with their achingly direct lyrics. On the very next song, "Steal The Lake From The Water," Adult Mom jumps back into the deep end with affecting rock that pairs crashing cymbals with words that cut straight to the quick.

The band is made up of Steph Knipe, Bruce Hamilton, Liv Battell and Mike Dvorscak. Knipe's lead vocals make up the backbone of the band, her tender notes acting as our way in to the songs. Some music fans are obsessed with a strong lead singer providing a muscular front, but Knipe's vulnerability works as a fundamental strength for Adult Mom, letting listeners almost act as people overhearing one woman's very private issues. This delicacy stretches throughout the album, allowing the listener to observe from a distance some emotional issues that might be too hot to touch.

Also on the bill is Gender Wizard, an up-and-coming band that has staked its claim as a Tacoma group that is dedicated to making songs that confront life's difficulties with a stark clarity. After years of irony holding indie music hostage, it seems we may be in the bold new age of sincerity.

Adult Mom, w/ Free Cake for Every Creature, Gender Wizard, Moody, all ages, 8 p.m., Saturday, June 17, $9 DOS, $6 ADV, Real Art Tacoma, 5412 S. Tacoma Way, Tacoma, realarttacoma.com

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