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Madeline Kenney

Madeline Kenney – Perfect Shapes

 

Madeline Kenney photo credit: Cara Robbins

Splice is looking forward to catching Madeline Kenney + Rose Droll @ Che Café Collective, La Jolla, CA this Sunday! Stay tuned for complete coverage from Daniel Castro.

Madeline Kenney:
      

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-sink mentality, as well as the surging soundscapes of Tame Impala and Wye Oak at their most impressionistic. Lead single “Cut Me Off” is a surprise of its own – the most pop-forward song Kenney has written yet.

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.

——————–

This October, Madeline Kenney will release her sophomore album, Perfect Shapes — a wholly unexpected leap forward in both composition and musicality. The record was produced by Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak, Flock of Dimes) and reflects a deeply collaborative and introspective process, apparent both in arrangements and lyricism. Dealing with subjects of femininity, societal pressures, expectation, value and self-worth, Kenney stands tall in a moment of musical bravery and personal clarity.

The complex and open-ended questions that lay at the core of Perfect Shapes mark Kenney’s arrival into a hard-hitting reflective space: 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 poise, grounded by the pointedly laid and surging soundscape.

Kenney has always had a penchant for curiosity and experimentation. Raised in the Pacific Northwest, she began studying classical piano and dance in kindergarten, and grew to believe her future lay in modern dance choreography. Not one to be tied to a singular pursuit, however, Kenney took a hard left in college, studying Interpersonal Neurobiology and supporting herself with a career in baking. Music remained a constant however, and after moving to the Bay Area in 2013, Kenney quickly found footing in the supportive arts community in Oakland. There, she met and began collaborating with Chaz Bear (Toro Y Moi), which led to the production of her Signals EP and later her debut album, Night Night at the First Landing. Both releases were received with great critical acclaim, and saw Kenney exploring the sounds within her self-proclaimed twang-haze genre, defined by cathartic fuzz breakdowns and lyrical sensitivity.

Perfect Shapes
all songs written by madeline kenney
produced by Jenn wasner, except Overhead which was produced by Ben Sloan
Madeline Kenney – vocals, guitar, synth, keys
Jenn Wasner – bass, vocals, guitar, synth
Camille lewis – drums, percussion, vocals
Ben Sloan – drums on Overhead
Stephen Patota – guitar on Overhead
Derek Barber – guitar on No Weekend, Know, the Flavor of the Fruit Tree, and Always Around Me
Paul Rogers – trumpet on Your Art
Andy Stack – saxophone on No Weekend, vocals on Know
Walker Johnson – drum samples on the Flavor of the Fruit Tree

Overhead

Overhead
They’re calling me empty
Just because
I know my own limits
But now
You should come over
It’s enough to hear you agree

I’m in it now …

Go ahead
And keep your distance
I’ve got demons now
And I still don’t understand what gets me shaking
That’s enough for me

I’m in it now,
Thinking out loud

So now, what’s the light I’m living in?
No sound, just the colors coming in.

So now, that’s the light I’m living in —
No sound, just the colors coming in.

So what’s the light I’m living in?
I’m in it now…

Bad Idea

Something came up
That’s why I didn’t call
I’m coming back
Don’t forget that

Someone gave up
I don’t know who it was
We’re getting bad, bad ideas

So I showed up, just like they told me to
So, that’s what the girls do —
Showin up for you, for you
–to bang on my front door
You say almost anything
Bang on my front door
And get the wrong idea
–it’s such a bad idea–
Here I go
Here I go

There I go again, there I go

Cut Me Off

Don’t cut me off

It’s a big push to the side
I know, cause I’m trying
And I thought you lied
I know cause I’m lying

So don’t cut me off
I’m in my own time
So don’t cut me off
I’m in my own time

There I go

And I wanna get up,
Walk inside,
Fill up my cup,
And drink it dry.

So don’t cut me off
I’m in my own time
So don’t cut me off
I’m in my own time

And I wanna get up,
Walk inside,
Fill up my cup,
You’re still on my mind

I gotta good thing going now
I don’t know where I wanna be
I gotta good thing going now
So don’t cut me off.

No Weekend

Oh, no weekend, I am worn too thin
I can’t battle all that I begin
I’m sorry, I can’t go out, I don’t know where my time goes
I’m in the hustle to my elbows

No weaker,
I’m in for it,
I’m it

Oh, no, I did not become my sins
Rubbing elbows with the pain I’m in
You, and my old ways,
Both are coming again
And I’m so good at giving in

No weaker,
I’m in for it,
I’m it

Know

Who has courage?
I don’t really know.

Tell me
Just what I am thinking —
I can’t really know.

Wake up, darling
This one just can’t wait —
I think I really know.

I am home

Fruit Tree

Look at us, together, forever
Grabbing fruit from the tree, the flavor

(here they come with a comeback)

She flew, but she missed the connection
Always trying for attention

(here they come with a comeback)
Well, I keep getting old
I keep getting old, you keep getting younger.
I keep getting old
I keep getting old.

Sunshine, she grows forever
The fruit on the tree is sweeter

If I’m getting old, will they still come by?
Who looks good in white?

Well, I keep getting old
I keep getting old, you keep getting younger.
I keep getting old
I keep getting old.

I Went Home

I went home
I got tired —

– of standing up,
Of giving up my time,
Of getting offers,
Of being mother

What’s the shape and
What’s the color?

I’ve given up
Feeling my own skin
And all my answers
Don’t hold water

Now I, now I, now I…
I don’t want them to see me like this.
I don’t want them to see me like this.

(of standing up)
(of doling out my time)
(of getting offers)
(of being mother)

Perfect Shapes

Perfect shapes over my eyes, when I go outside.
And the evening bleeding sunlight.

When I see you, I’m so happy, I cry
I don’t ever want to hear the goodbye

Hold me — I’m sinking in.

So another summer in my room
Picking up the jasmine perfume

When I woke up, I could hear the tern fly
If I said that I was leaving, I lied.

Hold me — I’m sinking in.
Just beginning again.

You Art

Sit with me,
I came across your art – I wish I understood.
I know it’s getting hard, but people don’t know what’s good.

Overdone,
Like every metaphor that’s ever been sung,
Lay on the kitchen floor, just trying to be someone.

I’ll get older and watch my hands get hard,
You’ll get wiser and put your art in the yard.

I’m getting so much older, and my hands are getting hard.
You’re getting wiser and your art is in my
Garden.

Always Around Me

When I went to sleep,
You put that record on
When I woke up,
I heard the same song,
You’re always around me.
When I get off the ceiling,
I am so paranoid to be alone without you.
I’m only tired when I get home,
You’re always around me —

— breathing my air.

Shut the window
I can’t breathe —
–until I’m around you.

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