Oakland artist Madeline Kenney bounds toward the unknown on her third album, Sucker’s Lunch, expanding on the idea of what a love song could be – a little more cautious than exuberant, more nuanced than blazing devotion. Sonically, the album 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.
To help realize her vision, Kenney once again enlisted Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack, previous collaborators and friends. Together, the trio carefully constructed the songs in a few compact sessions in Oakland, San Francisco, and Durham. Stack and Wasner’s rhythm section trace circles around Kenney’s off-kilter guitar, with verdant curls of synths, saxophone, and complex harmonies. Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner lends his distinctive tenor to lead single Sucker. The resulting songs are immediate and deeply moving, somehow feeling familiar while they defy expectations at every turn.
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”). Kenney audibly loses her mind on Double Hearted, where the playful arrangement and lyrics spark a firestorm of heartache and wild abandon. 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.