Madeline Kenney
Sucker's Lunch


3.5
great

Review

by Johnny[Well] STAFF
August 4th, 2020 | 26 replies


Release Date: 07/31/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: quiet love and creamy coffee

Madeline Kenney’s take on indie pop is at once clinically precise and immersively dreamlike, an overall fortuitous combination that makes her latest album, Sucker’s Lunch, a distinctly relaxing listen. Similarly to her last album Perfect Shapes, Kenney’s inclination towards reverb-happy, dreamlike atmospheres is indispensable here, since every choice in its texture, lyrics and pacing feels so markedly deliberate that every second of music might as well be be accompanied by a page of an ongoing thesis on the interrelation between cognition and musical stimulus, Kenney being the qualified neuroscientist that she is. As it is, the album’s airy atmosphere confines Kenney’s more overbearing tendencies as a vocalist and songwriter to the realm of individual voicings, while her songs as a whole enjoy a feeling of relative levity. They never seem to go anywhere in particular, instead landing in a comfortable equilibrium where their ebb and flow is engaging enough not to demand a belaboured direction. A Madeline Kenney song doesn’t come to an end because anything in particular has been resolved, but because the thought process behind it has run its course and whatever remains is too self-aware to overstay its welcome. As such, she ends up in the vague ballpark of how St. Vincent might have turned out if she’d set herself to catering to dubiously independent metropolitan study cafés rather than stadiums and leather vendors; this brand of indie pop is blissed out enough to appeal to the spaciest of dream pop fans, while wistful enough to be a viable soundtrack for those looking for a more thought-provoking pop experience.

To this end, the introspective romanticism that makes for the album’s subject matter finds itself well explored here. For instance, Kenney’s rumination over the ins and outs of falling in love feels right at home with the wry weariness that waxes and wanes over the course of the lovely title track, a subtly beleaguered account of social double standards and coffee, carried by her voice with an ease that feels convincingly personal and refreshingly less emphatic than at other points in the album. As far as such moments are concerned, “White Light Window” is perhaps the album’s most successfully rousing offering; Kenney’s refrain as she pines over a particular memory of a particular someone may be carried by familiar melodies, but the strain in her performance feels very much her own. “Cut the Real” is more laid back; Kenney’s breathy vocals here are a natural counterpart to her the ultrachilled basslines that guide the song’s momentum. Similarly to Marika Hackman in her finer moments, Kenney’s phrasings are unobtrusive enough that the odd awkward lyric such as Yeah, I get it, you're the bad kids, I'm the grunt / If it wasn't my defense I'd start cussin’ barely registers as a blip on the song’s otherwise impeccable smoothness.

The same cannot be said for the album as a whole. Madeline Kenney is by no means the first vocalist to overstate the personal voice behind such otherwise banal lines as I like when they tell me what you're like / What do you think they say about me? by forcing them into concertedly unpredictable rhythms and melodies, but she makes it such an obvious habit of it that it’s already something of an eye-roller by the time the album hits its mid-section. Perhaps in a different timeline this approach might have resulted in levels of contour and nuance approaching the upper echelons of the post-Bark Your Head Off, Dog indieverse, but with Kenney’s rather plain lyricism behind them, these lines serve primarily to spotlight facets of the album that were hardly among its most convincing to begin with. “Be That Man” is the worst example of this, sabotaging a deliciously bluesy hook that dominates its chorus with a series of gender-politik clunkers that might have sounded vaguely edgy if this was the ‘90s and they were voiced by PJ Harvey. As it is, the track comes off as an awkward misfire that loses Kenney’s vaguely articulated point about hypocritical standards and the arbitrariness of gender roles in sheer inelegance of lines as uninspiring as I could come back and be the same / No one would turn their head / They know the game.

This song is representative of the less flattering aspects of the Madeline Kenney experience; sometimes her explorative fondness for precision is fresh and engaging, but it is occasionally presented in a way more indicative of ham-fisted naivety. Fortunately, the latter is rarely dominant, and Sucker’s Lunch is rightly confident in the strength of its dreamy meditation. Kenney knows her craft well enough that the occasional overly firm stroke of her pen fails to compromise the album’s rewarding atmosphere too severely, and for what it’s worth, her hit rate is a tad more consistent here than it was on Perfect Shapes. It won’t be the most memorable outing you hear this year, but if you’re reading this in anything approaching a wistful funk, there’s a decent chance Sucker’s Lunch might be exactly what your mood calls for.




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user ratings (26)
3.5
great
related reviews

Perfect Shapes


Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2020


29993 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

apologies for the slow writeup, this exists and is out and is quite nice

Digging: Rubio - Mango Negro

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
August 4th 2020


20594 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

3.5 is acceptable

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 4th 2020


36276 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was shocked to see this get a review at all, let alone a staff one, until I remembered it was on your list. Nice work. I'm a big fan of Kenney and while I think this might be her most homogenous offering, it's still great. Double Hearted is gorgeous and stands as an early favorite.

Digging: ManDancing - The Good Sweat

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
August 4th 2020


20594 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Double Hearted is my strong least fave so far hahaha but it's all great

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 4th 2020


36276 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it's one of the catchiest songs! lol

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
August 4th 2020


20594 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's catchy but her vocals are at the most annoying lol

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
August 4th 2020


20594 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

And I would've reviewed this if Johnny hadn't (;

SowingSeason
Moderator
August 4th 2020


36276 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'm glad there are multiple other Kenney disciples here. I had no idea.

SteakByrnes
August 4th 2020


21558 Comments


Suck my lunch johnny boi

Digging: Coletta - Idealism

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
August 4th 2020


1888 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nice! this is the most 3.5 album ever but very very pleasant

Digging: Palm Reader - Sleepless

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2020


29993 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

haha yes this is the 3.5est 3.5 i've heard this year, and it wears it nicely

"I'm glad there are multiple other Kenney disciples here. I had no idea."

the long end of this is that neek bullied me into jamming Perfect Shapes a couple of months ago and I dibs'd this for the hell of it soon after since there was nothing exciting coming up ;] no regrets though



SandwichBubble
August 4th 2020


12341 Comments


Sounds cool, will check.

Digging: Dirt - Never Mind Dirt - Here's the Bollocks

Atari
Staff Reviewer
August 4th 2020


26123 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

how cute is that little guitar riff in Sucker





Digging: Tired Lion - Breakfast for Pathetics

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
August 5th 2020


20594 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"the long end of this is that neek bullied me into jamming Perfect Shapes a couple of months ago"

>:c

NorthernSkylark
August 5th 2020


10499 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

waiter, there's a leaf in my coffee



Digging: Zach Bryan - Quiet, Heavy Dreams

budgie
August 6th 2020


22616 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

wait a second this isnt japonese

Slex
August 6th 2020


10626 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah this is a nice lil album

Digging: ManDancing - The Good Sweat

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
August 6th 2020


29993 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

best new japanoise budg

budgie
August 7th 2020


22616 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ok, finally jamming this in full

thanks for the review btw jonee

Colton
August 12th 2020


5362 Comments


love this album art



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