Madeline Kenney Perfect Shapes
In January of 2018, five months after the release of her debut album Night Night at the First Landing, Madeline Kenney traveled from Oakland, California to the woods outside of Durham, North Carolina to record her sophomore album with a new collaborator, Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner. The choice was a conscious decision to explore new methodology in writing, recording, production and even genre. Perfect Shapes sees Kenney leaping headfirst into fresh and adventurous territory, largely eschewing conventional rock structures in favor of theme and melody. Its ten songs are full of surprises big and small – from vibrant synth lines to taut bass figures and subtly modulated vocals – that instead of feeling fussed over, reveal Kenney’s penchant for elegant and abstract composition.
Kenney’s 2017 debut, Night Night at the First Landing, was a guitar-centric rock album, produced by friend and collaborator Chaz Bear of Toro Y Moi. Perfect Shapes leans on the foundational pieces of Night Night – fuzzed-out guitar tones, coy wordplay and Kenney’s notably strong voice – but with an unconventional approach that allows them to bloom, reincarnated.
Perfect Shapes marks Wasner’s first foray into producing another artist’s work and is permeated by the pair’s collaborative spirit. Both Wasner and Kenney play multiple instruments on the record, and engineered the session alongside Kenney’s touring percussionist, Camille Lewis. An eagerness to explore and experiment is apparent from start to finish, as Kenney and Wasner weave endless sonic curve balls into the arrangements. From the delightfully warped percussion on opening track “Overhead” to the burbling synths on the R&B-tinted “The Flavor of the Fruit Tree” and the left-field trumpet solo in “Your Art,” these rich and inventive ideas echo Yo La Tengo’s everything-but-the-kitchen-
The dazzling arrangements form the perfect backdrop for the complex and open-ended questions at the core of Perfect Shapes – how do you love another when it hurts to do so? What is the physical limit to which one can carry the emotions of others? How does a modern female artist reckon with the expectations demanded of her femininity? Yet for all the notes of doubt and fear that Kenney raises, she delivers each song with confidence and nuance. “Bad Idea,” finds her balancing fragility as foil; later, “I Went Home” manages to evoke both frustration and affection in a single breath.
Oakland’s Madeline Kenney bounds toward the unknown on her iridescent third album, Sucker’s Lunch. The songs swell and lament, expanding the idea of a love song into something more grounded in self-awareness and philosophy than blind devotion. Sucker’s Lunch is the follow-up to 2018’s critically acclaimed Perfect Shapes, which Pitchfork described as Kenney “stepping onto the pedestal of her own design.” Her sonic world is that of colorful harmonies, dramatic lyrics, and thick layers of guitar, having shifted and become more astute in this most recent work.
Kenney has a history of fostering collaborative recording and touring relationships, notably working on projects of her own with both Wye Oak and Toro y Moi. Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak) and Kenney first collaborated on Perfect Shapes in 2018, and they teamed up again for Sucker’s Lunch, with Wye Oak and Kenney as co-producers. Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi produced Kenney’s Signals EP and debut record Night Night At The First Landing, putting both out on his label, Company Records. Kenney has also lent vocals on multiple Toro y Moi projects, including 2017’s Boo Boo. In 2019 she released the split EP, The Sisters / Helpless in collaboration with Flock of Dimes (Wasner’s solo project). With a keen eye for visual narrative, Kenney also has provided direction for music videos for artists including Hand Habits, Boy Scouts, and A.O. Gerber.
Usually not one to write devotional love songs, a twist in circumstance found Kenney falling head first into love and music as if they were one and the same. The ten songs that comprise Sucker’s Lunch came together swiftly and decisively, often in bursts when Kenney was alone and gently losing her mind in her former home in Durham, NC. Between tours with Soccer Mommy, Wye Oak, Jay Som and Lord Huron, Kenney wrote and recorded Sucker’s Lunch in Durham, NC and Oakland, CA, finishing the album in a few compact sessions. The resulting record is a dedication to the rewards that supposed “foolishness” — in art, love, and music – can bring. Kenney’s determined visual sense for storytelling came into play in the direction of both the cover image and the accompanying music videos.
With every project Kenney pursues, she continues to shine in her ability to speak the strange, ambiguous, impossible truths — and Sucker’s Lunch is no exception, providing us with nothing less than a balanced meal for the wise fool in us all.
• North American publicity by Grandstand
• College/Non-Commercial radio by Terrorbird
• Digital Marketing by Terrorbird
• Limited coke-bottle-green colored vinyl
• Produced by Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak, Flock of Dimes)
• “Cut Me Off” and “Overhead” music videos in the works
• North American tour dates in support of Wye Oak
• Vinyl includes free digital download
2. Bad Idea
3. Cut Me Off
4. No Weekend
6. The Flavor of the Fruit Tree
7. I Went Home
8. Perfect Shapes
9. Your Art
10. Always Around Me