Like a curious kid who can't stop poking a bruise, Adult Mom's Stephanie Knipe compulsively explores the space between hurt and healing. On the new Soft Spots, Knipe delves into the messy business of opening one's self up to vulnerability—and the increased capacity for happiness, heartbreak, and personal growth that results—with beguiling warmth and candor. Not surprisingly, Steph's Top 5 picks reflect the genderqueer New York songwriter's gift for crafting idiosyncratic originals with surprisingly wide appeal.
With Free Cake for Every Creature on Friday, June 9, PoMoRo, 933 N. Main.
Taylor Swift—Red: Potentially the greatest records ever created are breakup records. "Red" is a breakup record, or really, to me, THE breakup record. I first heard it while taking a trip home on the train, weepy and completely heartbroken from a recent end of a relationship that left me disjointed and confused. I can proudly say that I have cried the absolute purest and most intense cry to "All Too Well," a song that brilliantly brings you through the magic of a relationship, and the complete breakdown of the loss of one. The record is genre-blending and disorganized, but that's the charm of it, and it made me realize that you can write through and not just about. Taylor Swift as a public figure is flawed and strange, but her songwriting holds a very special place in my heart. I would not have gotten through that heartbreak if it were not for Red. That record taught me new things about loss, and how heartbreak is a grief that needs to be survived, explored, and understood.
Bright Eyes—Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground: I first heard this record when I was 15, at a time where my locked bedroom was, melodramatically, my only haven and my only friend. I remember coming home from school and going immediately up to my room, slamming the door, and only coming out for dinner. It was a bad time, but also an important one, where I indulged in SO much art and music. At that point I really needed a voice to guide me, or to empathize with, and Conor Oberst was 100 percent that voice. The music was raw and composed in a way I had never heard before, honest and clear, unsteady but definitely on a path. The excessive 10 minute closer, "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and To Be Loved)" was my depressive anthem, a cathartic messy shouting from the rooftops that created my desire to be heard and understood. The record has beautiful and cutting songs, and was definitely marked a turning point in my emotional wellbeing.
Joni Mitchell—Blue: Of course I have heard these songs scattered about coffee shops, radio stations and kitchen stereos over the years of my childhood, but I really started to listen when I was 18. I cannot remember who recommended that I dive deeper into this work, but I am so thankful that they did. I don't think I need to explain the genius of Joni Mitchell, but I will say that as far as anthems of self destruction go, "A Case of You" is potentially the greatest ever written. "I could drink a case of you/And still be on my feet." When speaking of life changing records, I think it's important to note that those life-changing records are, mostly, ones that marked substantial life changes. Blue is a bit different; as nothing important was going on at the time I dove deeper. Instead, the record opened me up like a lover, and made my life more special and important in ways I didn't realize. Joni Mitchell knows how to present emotional openings, and also knows how to seep into your skin and nuzzle up with the things that hurt and the things that feel good. As a collection of songs, it is striking.
Carly Rae Jepsen—Emotion: This record makes me want to run directly into the field of light and shoot myself from the moon. It also makes me want to run to my room, close the door, and sit with myself. There are moments of pure catharsis that this record prompts (usually in the form of dance) that has not been met by any other. Emotion opened me back up to pop music, dancing, joy, and love. It helped me find community with my friends, with myself, with my art. There's so many beautiful things that happen in this record, but one of the best things, is how much joy it emits. It is ridiculously hard to not dance to any one of these songs. And then the realizations hit when you dive deeper in the lyrics, understanding that you can dance through the pain. "When I Needed You" is a beautiful breakup song that definitely enlists you to dance through the pain. If this record was a color it would be every color.
Fiona Apple—When the Pawn ...: Fiona Apple is punk as hell and this album is a beautiful collective of catharsis, anger, grief, tenderness, and pain. "Get Gone" is one of my favorite songs of all time, and I wish I could scream it to about ten separate people. Fiona Apple taught me that vulnerability is not a weakness, and can be a weapon. The arrangements and overall production of this record is phenomenal and beautiful, and definitely unlike anything I've ever heard before. While going through a recent breakup, I got drunk and sang "Limp" on karaoke to a 40-year-old man I had met that night with no one else in the room. It was weird and not a shining moment of mine, but it was a memorable event nonetheless, and I think that Fiona Apple's music can make those moments feel less insane.