Oakland, CA artist Madeline Kenney has shared a video for “Picture of You,” the latest single from her upcoming third album, Sucker’s Lunch. The album, which Kenney co-produced with Wye Oak and NPR’s Bob Boilen called “expansive and imaginative,” is available for pre-order now and due July 31st via Carpark.
“I had this brief moment where I was looking at someone I love and I realized that I could never truly know everything they had been through, or understand their whole life and experiences from their perspective, even if by loving them I felt like I was getting so close to that kind of understanding,” said Kenney of the song. “It broke my heart in a way. I wish I could know and hold everything for a person but I can’t, and at the same time I wish I could do that for the past versions of myself. Maybe that’s more attainable.”
While Madeline Kenney’s debut album was produced by Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bear and her second record by Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, Madeline has enlisted Wasner to produce this record yet again, but this time with Andy Stack (Wye Oak) collaborating as well. The trio carefully co-produced and constructed the songs on Sucker’s Lunch in a few compact sessions in Durham, Oakland, and San Francisco, and the album finds Madeline bounding toward the unknown. Throughout the record, she expands on the idea of what a love song could be – a little more cautious than exuberant, more nuanced than blazing devotion. Sonically, Sucker’s Lunch 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.
“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”). “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.
Stack and Wasner’s rhythm section trace circles around Kenney’s off-kilter guitar, with verdant curls of synths, saxophone, and complex harmonies. The resulting songs are immediate and deeply moving, somehow feeling familiar while they defy expectations at every turn.
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.