Back in July, Madeline Kenney announced her Perfect Shapes album, the follow-up to last year’s debut Night Night At The First Landing. (Both albums involve indie-celebrity producers, with Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner taking over for Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bear this time around.) Today, the Oakland-based musician is sharing the new LP’s opening track “Overhead” — the project’s one song produced by Ben Sloan rather than Wasner — along with a thought-provoking video.
“Overhead” is buried under the weight of Kenney’s emotions, moving away from the bright bounce of last month’s lead single “Cut Me Off.” It sees her working through societal pressures about motherhood and her decision to not have children. While the lyrics aren’t entirely direct, there’s still bluntness to her turmoil: “Overhead/ They’re calling me empty/ Just because I know my own limit.” And the self-directed video has an aesthetic calm, grounding Kenney’s emotional trance.
Here’s Kenney on the song and video:
Lyrically, “Overhead” is about the societal expectations of women to have children, my own grappling with those expectations, and considering the value and depth in my life without children. For the video, I wanted to express that idea through the image of an arid, lofty, haunted house — not traditionally creepy, but moreso haunted by my own personal demons. The women dancers come in to exorcise those demons out, offset the heaviness, and call attention to the fact that a lot of us are having the same internal conversations. During the video shoot, we talked a lot about this, and a few of the women agreed to share some words on what the song and video represent to them.
Watch and listen to “Overhead” below, where you can also see Kenney’s tour dates and read reflections on the video by several of the dancers.
Juliet Paramor writes:
For me, this song and video can be about acknowledging the doubt, confusion and fear you may feel because you are going against the grain, or because your choices may be different than others. Yet it is also about the moment of acceptance when you realize that is your truth, and being true to yourself is the most important and most inspiring thing you can do for yourself or anyone else. That moment of “yes, this is me” is a wave of relief and pleasure and presence that no one can take from you.
Here’s a word from Valerie Mendez:
I see the dancers as the demons within the artist. The demons are distracting, active, and frantic like a storm going off within the artist. Yet on the outside, she sings calmly and collected, letting the dancing demons release their energy until they are spent, leaving her to be. I believe that is all anyone wants, just to be, without judgement or expectations, without the dancing demons.
Lastly, a quick but potent summation from Madeline Aragon:
Our generational and gendered expectations of bearing children can totally be haunting!
08/15 – Dover, UK @ The Booking Hall *
08/16 – Bristol, UK @ Louisiana *
08/18 – Exeter, UK @ Exeter Phoenix *
08/19 – Birmingham, UK @ Hare & Hounds *
08/21 – Edinburgh, IE @ Summerhall *
08/22 – Leeds, UK @ Headrow House *
09/15 – Raleigh, NC @ Kings %
10/15 – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Crepe Place
10/18 – San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Shop
10/20 – Los Angeles, CA @ Moroccan Lounge
11/01 – New York, NY @ Baby’s All Right
11/02 – Lancaster, PA @ Tellus 360
11/03 – Washington, D.C. @ Songbyrd
11/04 – Philadelphia, PA @ Philamoca
11/06 – Toronto, ON @ Monarch
11/07 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Tavern
11/08 – Cincinnati, OH @ MOTR Pub
11/09 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas
11/13 – Brighton, UK @ Green Door Store
11/14 – Bristol, UK @ Rough Trade Bristol
11/15 – London, UK @ Sebright Arms
11/16 – Paris, FR @ Petit Bain
11/17 – Graz, AT @ Autumn Leaves
11/20 – Brussels, BE @ Botanique Witloof Bar
* = w/ Wye Oak
%= w/ Sugar Candy Mountain
Perfect Shapes is out 10/5 via Carpark Records. Pre-order it here.