Following the success of her fourth album, A New Reality Mind, Madeline Kenney is back with The Same, Again: ANRM (Tiny Telephone Session).
The Same Again: ANRM (Tiny Telephone Session) places Madeline Kenney in a light of which many have never seen before — unless you caught her immaculate mid-pandemic livestream performance for Outside Lands’ Inside Lands at the Saint Joseph’s Art Society, that is. Recorded at Tiny Telephone in Oakland, CA in just one day, Kenney rerecorded her latest studio album A New Reality Mind in full with only a grand and an open upright piano (aside from the occasional inclusion of backing vocalists).
While touring A New Reality Mind, Kenney faced new curveballs each night — a lost power cord here, a lack of monitors there — which forced her to adapt and strip down the performance. These random sets of circumstances ended up being a fun challenge and would go on to inspire the recording of The Same Again. Kenney, ordinarily the ever meticulous producer, welcomed the new set of constraints. Using fewer tools allowed her to re-center her focus on communicating the story of these songs.
Using musical sketches from the sessions that brought us her EP Summer Quarter, the recording of A New Reality Mind was prompted by a sudden break-up in 2022. Once she listened back to those recordings, she noticed that she was more aware of the signs than she had realized. The album shows the process of acceptance, self-forgiveness, and a willingness to move forward. In their new format, the songs are even more therapeutic than the original — happy or sad.
A New Reality Mind was Kenney’s first self-produced record having worked previously with Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi, and Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes and Andy Stack who together make up Wye Oak. With three records already under her belt, Kenney was ready to do it on her own and A New Reality Mind was also the first written primarily on piano and synthesizer. Full autonomy allowed her to make highly orchestrated, calculated, and formulated productions.
While A New Reality Mind showcased her ability as a producer and songwriter, The Same Again is proof of her ability as a musician. The Same Again is indeed stripped down, but Kenney’s prowess on the piano still feels magnificently full. There’s also more room for her vocals to shine. Ever the emotive and passionate singer, in a way that feels almost punk, every inflection and extra added bit of breath exerted can be heard perfectly. Limiting herself to 1–3 takes added a new, but welcome, sense of pressure. With fewer instruments to fuss over, she was allowed to meditate more on the lyrical content and how to even more clearly communicate what she wanted to say to the listener. The result is more honest, comforting, intimate, and true. “It was a whirlwind to do it all in one day, but I really enjoy working that way,” Kenney shares, “It feels much more at the base essence of the role that music plays in my own life — urgent expression of the inner self.”