Madeline Kenney
Perfect Shapes


4.0
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
December 6th, 2018 | 8 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Madeline starts a garden.

On Kenney’s debut, Night Night At The First Landing, Madeline felt like she was adrift in her songs. The guitars and hazy ambience guided the album’s trajectory, and she sort of just floated along with the current. It made for a beautiful, laid back experience – even if Kenney did not feel like the captain of the ship. Perfect Shapes introduces Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner as producer, and with that comes some change. Madeline’s vocals step into focus, becoming the centerpiece of a more melodically-inclined sound. For what it loses in atmospheric texture it makes up for in creativity, dabbling in electronic expansion while guiding Kenney towards something more lustrous and contemporary than her meek, indie roots.

Kenney’s sophomore effort is an evolution and appropriation of control. As she grows musically, lyrically, and personally, she is not merely left with responsibility – she demands it. The symbolism is at its clearest when a robotic, male voice interjects with “wait” and Madeline responds with “Don't cut me off -- I'm in my own time.” The idea of taking control of your life is one that surfaces throughout the entire record. On the opener ‘Overhead’, she laments “I'm in it now.” She accesses courage from all angles, including a newfound demand for personal space, “You, always around me…shut the window, I can't breathe.” No matter the topic, she projects dignity and poise while placing a wall between herself and those who seek to jeopardize her autonomy.

There’s still an overarching tenderness though, even in her crusade for respect and independence. Madeline softly sings, “When I see you, I'm so happy, I cry” on the title track, which also happens to be the best illustration of her craft’s maturation – featuring an extended electronic bridge and ambient outro that is accented by shimmering guitars. It represents her human side, that tender core that always requires affection regardless of what we ostensibly project. Just like anyone, she’s afraid to lose the ones she loves (“I don't ever want to hear the goodbye”) and needs reassurance (“Hold me, I'm sinking”). Outwardly Perfect Shapes seizes governance of Kenney’s career and life, but behind the curtain she’s vulnerable and fearful.

I can’t help but be reminded – a little bit musically, but a lot thematically – of Haley Heynderickx’s mantra on I Need to Start a Garden. On that album, and especially the single ‘Oom Sha La La’, Heynderickx lamented the stagnancy of her life and demanded change through deliberate action. That’s precisely what Kenney achieves on Perfect Shapes, even down to the lush, green artwork. This album is Madeline’s garden, a flourishing melodic/electronic progression from Night Night’s straightforward indie-pop, and a shell-shattering statement of confidence to boot. Kenney has come into full bloom, and Perfect Shapes will forever capture that moment.




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user ratings (9)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
December 6th 2018


28732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Add this to your never ending list of women making great music in 2018.

Also another album to cram before you make your best-of list.

Digging: Exit North - Book of Romance and Dust

ProjectFreak
December 6th 2018


3201 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

dang it sowing there's already enough disruption happening in my list



but as I listen to Half Waif, which has a bit in common with this...I think I might have to give this a shot

Lucman
December 6th 2018


1468 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Well, I guess I can fit in another record before I start working on my list. Good review, Sow.

Digging: Rivers and Robots - Discovery

Dewinged
December 6th 2018


13064 Comments


Ooooh didn't expect to see this reviewed at this point. I remember I jam it over but honestly can't remember anything about it.

Didn't know it was produced by Jenn Wasner, that changes everything haha

Have you checked the Wye Oak one Sowing?

Digging: Kaelan Mikla - Not Eftir Not

Lucman
December 6th 2018


1468 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is real nice. I'd say it has a fair chance of cracking my top 40.

SowingSeason
Moderator
December 7th 2018


28732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks everyone! I -sort of- liked this most of the year to the tune of a 3.0-3.5, but it grew on me pretty suddenly over the last week when I was revisiting some of 2018's intriguing albums that didn't grab me hard right away. This definitely gets better with time.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
December 7th 2018


23931 Comments


not another one!

(I’m not ready)

SowingSeason
Moderator
December 7th 2018


28732 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I wouldn't prioritize this Atari but it just might tickle your indie-chick side



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