Madeline Kenney: Sucker’s Lunch (Carpark) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, November 28th, 2023  

Sucker’s Lunch


Jul 31, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Oakland CA native Madeline Kenney isn’t interested in the simple approach. Her spiraling, layered guitar approach defies easy categorization, as does her aversion to the traditional hook-filled pop melody. On her third record, Sucker’s Lunch, Kenney applies that idiosyncratic musical approach to the complexities of relationships.

Kenney continues to show an affinity for songs that soar and swirl with intensity on Sucker’s Lunch. These tracks may come off as understated initially, but there is a layered beauty that shows itself with repeated listens. Kenney leans closer to the art rock sound of her debut (2017’s Night Night at the First Landing) on Sucker’s Lunch, incorporating her guitar as a major melodic piece in these tracks. Yet, she also continues to build on the shimmering harmonies and electronic elements of 2018’s sophomore album, Perfect Shapes. Kenney’s approach to melody often comes from an unexpected angle, such as on “Sugar Sweat,” where Kenney’s ethereal vocals are bolstered by lush beds of synths, saxophone accents, and her wiry guitar lines. While not always immediate or familiar, Kenney’s music shows a captivating power.

Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner produced Perfect Shapes and returns, this time bringing along her bandmate Andy Stack as they both take on co-production duties. Their production is a particularly strong element, giving some songs, such as “White Window Light,” a towering instrumental presence while others, such as “Sweet Coffee,” are given a subtle smolder.

Just as Kenney looks for the road less travelled musically, she is equally averse to easy answers lyrically. Instead, she looks deeper to the difficult realities of love. “Double Hearted” sees Kenney torn in different directions, capturing her in a spiraling moment that lands with the emotional low point of “Cut the Real” where Kenney seems to deny even reality around her. Elsewhere on the intimate ballad “Sucker,” Kenney reflects on the continuous investment of energy into a tenuous love.

Similarly, Kenney’s love songs are not sickly sweet or fawning. Rather, she draws upon the tension between romantic reservation and the desire to throw oneself into love with reckless abandon. Kenney implores her partner, “Please/just forget me” while desiring a truly vulnerable intimacy on “Tell You Everything.” There is no easy resolution here. Rather, Kenney draws peace in the mundane moments, whether in the simple romantic imagery of her partner bathed in light or the everyday connection of sharing a cup of coffee.

Much like its predecessor, Sucker’s Lunch doesn’t reveal everything it has to offer on first listen. Instead, it is a slow burning album, with Kenney’s immaculate voice and curious instrumentals drawing the listener through her complicated maze of emotion. As the listener draws back the layers of glassy melodies and discordant edges, one finds an intimate testament to love’s inherent contradictions. (

Author rating: 8/10

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