By Pres Dean
Oakland-based artist Madeline Kenney gives us a bona fide sketch of what it means to be young adult in today’s world – specifically, a female artist who is still wrestling with her own identity, gender roles, and life transitions. Nestled in the cusp between forbearance and realization, Perfect Shapes delineates the emotional weight we learn to juggle as our own idealizations and perceptions start tumbling down to reality.
In the opening track “Overhead,” Madeline starts off with a slow-burning melody where she leaves you suspended in a dreamy state with her featherweight vocals. But this lightness leaves room for dark introspection where the gal admits, “I’ve got demons now / And I still don’t understand what gets me shaking.” This is a common craft found throughout the record where Madeline deceitfully wraps her own dark confessions with soft crooning layers. In “Bad Idea,” she taps into miscommunication and mocks gender expectation with poised passive aggression. “So I showed up, just like they told me to / So, that’s what the girls do — / Showin up for you, for you.”
A recurring them is the record is time and the way we change our use of it or get changed by it. In an age where we are used to living in breakneck pace, Madeline addresses a universal problem – there’s simply not enough time. In “Cut Me Off,” Madeline coils you with midtempo strings while she chants about how she is in her own rhythm and have no time for interruptions. Perhaps the most Type A moment of the record is “No Weekend” where the gal poetically frames a workaholic excuse with gorgeous bass line and saxophone. “I’m sorry, I can’t got out, I don’t know where my time goes / I’m in the hustle to my elbows.”
Madeline abandons the chill, lo-fi territory in “Fruit Tree” where she adds an intricate bounciness onto the melodic texture. We experience a similar type of upbeat intensity in “I Went Home,” where the electronically stretched notes and bursting riffs amplify the magnitude of loss one can feel. The gal pairs this sense of loss with reinvigoration by following it up with “Perfect Shapes” where she lets her glacé vocals transcend over the buzz-heavy production. Throughout most of the record, her vocals are embedded within the lo-fi layers, but in “Perfect Shapes” her voice stands center stage.
There is a melancholic wistfulness that Madeline artfully indulges as she reflects on aging and how it metamorphoses your life at an indigestible speed. In “Fruit Tree” and “You Art,” the gal repeatedly mentions getting older while hinting a sense of helplessness. “I’ll get older and watch my hands get hard” she chants in “You Art.” For Madeline, change can be controllable or uncontrollable. Getting older is something she can’t control (“You Art”), but the way she uses her time is something she can (“Cut Me Off”).
The gal wraps the record with the heartwarming “Always Around Me” where she bounces between nostalgia and loneliness. Perfect Shapes is a panoramic view of the changes that we juggle with ourselves, others, society, and ideas that often leave us feeling more optimistic or the opposite. Coated with percussions and electro flicks, Perfect Shapes is a buoyant and realistic reflection of the different shapes that our life takes whether we want it or not.
Produced by Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak, Flock of Dimes), Perfect Shapes will be out on Oct 5 via Carpark Records.
Madeline has tour dates coming up:
North America 2018
10/15 – The Crepe Place (Santa Cruz, CA, USA)
10/18 – Rickshaw Shop (San Francisco, CA, USA)
10/20 – Moroccan Lounge (Los Angeles, CA, USA)
10/21 – Che Café (San Diego, CA, USA)
11/1 – Baby’s All Right (New York, NY, USA)
11/2 – Tellus 360 (Lancaster, PA, USA)
11/3 – Songbyrd (Washington, DC, USA)
11/4 – Philamoca (Philadelphia, PA, USA)
11/6 – Monarch (Toronto, ON, Canada)
11/7 – Beachland Tavern (Cleveland, OH, USA)
11/8 – MOTR Pub (Cincinnati, OH, USA)
11/9 – Schubas (Chicago, IL, USA)
11/11 – Le Guess Who? (Utrecht, Netherlands)
11/13 – Green Door Store (Brighton, UK)
11/14 – Rough Trade Bristol (Bristol, UK)
11/15 – Sebright Arms (London, UK)
11/16 – Petit Bain (Paris, France)
11/17 – Autumn Leaves (Graz, Austria)
11/18 – Monarch (Berlin, Germany)
11/20 – Botanique Witloof Bar (Brussels, Belgium)