Madeline Kenney Sucker’s Lunch
Oakland artist Madeline Kenney bounds toward the unknown on her third album, Sucker’s Lunch, expanding on the idea of what a love song could be – a little more cautious than exuberant, more nuanced than blazing devotion. Sonically, the album expands upon Kenney’s earlier, guitar-driven sound – a definitive step forward from an artist adept at communicating universal sentiments in a voice unmistakably her own.
To help realize her vision, Kenney once again enlisted Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack, previous collaborators and friends. Together, the trio carefully constructed the songs in a few compact sessions in Oakland, San Francisco, and Durham. Stack and Wasner’s rhythm section trace circles around Kenney’s off-kilter guitar, with verdant curls of synths, saxophone, and complex harmonies. Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner lends his distinctive tenor to lead single “Sucker.” The resulting songs are immediate and deeply moving, somehow feeling familiar while they defy expectations at every turn.
“I’m not interested in something easy or immediately apparent,” Kenney says. “My experience writing these songs wasn’t easy, it was painful and difficult. I was terrified of falling in love, and as much as I’d like to write a sticky sweet song for someone, it doesn’t come naturally to me. Instead I wanted to explore the tiny moments; sitting alone in my room guessing what the other person was thinking, spiraling into a maze of logical reasons to bail and finding my way out again. When I spoke with friends about the theme of the ‘idiot’, it became apparent that everyone understood that feeling and was relieved to hear it echoed in someone else.”
Thematically, Sucker’s Lunch sees Kenney soberly contrasting the risks and rewards of falling in love, eventually deciding to dive headfirst into her own foolishness and relish in the unknowing. The tracks explore new love from every angle – “Picture of You” is a soundtrack- worthy lamentation of never truly knowing what someone has been through (“growing up is so hard, I don’t know why”) while tender vulnerability shines on “Tell You Everything” (“When your eyes say ‘we’ve had a day, love’, I get to fall in”). Kenney audibly loses her mind on “Double Hearted,” where the playful arrangement and lyrics spark a firestorm of heartache and wild abandon. “Cut the Real” pairs synth drones with syncopated lyrics to work through a depressive mind state, and the near-devotional “White Window Light” accepts uncertainty as a beautiful gift.
“There’s so much love in it,” Wasner says of Sucker’s Lunch. “It’s the story of someone figuring out how to be a person in the world, and how to be with another person without losing oneself.” Sucker’s Lunch shines in its ability to speak the strange, ambiguous, impossible truth – nothing less than a balanced meal for the wise fool in us all.
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/Commercial Specialty radio by Terrorbird
- Digital playlisting & positioning by Terrorbird
- Sync licensing by Terrorbird
- Facebook boosted posts and targeted Instagram dark posts throughout campaign
- Lead single, “Sucker” featuring vocals from Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner
- “Sucker”, “Picture of You”, and “Cut The Real” music videos in the works
- Pressed on Custard Vinyl, includes free digital download
- Sugar Sweat
- Picture of You
- Tell You Everything
- Double Hearted
- Cut the Real
- Be That Man
- White Window Light
- Sweet Coffee