Madeline Kenney

Perfect Shapes

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AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson

Following her dreamy, artfully textured debut, 2017's Night Night at the First Landing, by about a year, Perfect Shapes finds a more explorative Madeline Kenney, both stylistically and timbrally. Venturing into bolder indie electronica and time-shifting experimental rock, the album was produced by Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner and features more prominent synths and electronics. Both women played multiple instruments on the record. While no track is representative of the whole album, opener "Overhead" (the one song here produced by Ben Sloan rather than Wasner) establishes its contrasting timbres and mix of lyricism and atmosphere. Clanging, industrial percussion is combined with muted drums, spacy synths are joined by rumbling guitar tones, and twinkling keyboards and guitar float over a distinct, funky bass on a song that wonders "So now what's the light I'm living in?/No sound, just the colors coming in." The quirkier, more syncopated "Cut Me Off" seems descended from Talking Heads, while the drifting "I Went Home" offers borderline jammy rock. Elsewhere, the playful, surprising "The Flavor of the Fruit Tree" borrows from woozy alt-R&B, bleepy synth pop, and stylized vocal-era pop. With the exception of Kenney's consistently breezy, warm vocals, altogether, the album comes off as unpredictable as that sounds, especially compared to her relatively intimate debut. However, for those who aren't put off by its favoring crafted texture and melody over mood or structure, it's also absorbing, offering layers to uncover with repeat listens. Trivia of note: Perfect Shapes is Wasner's first time producing music that isn't her own.

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