Oakland singer-songwriter Madeline Kenney is slowing things down and glooming it up. The renaissance woman (she’s a neuroscientist, baker, dancer, piano teacher, and nanny in addition to making music) and Stereogum Best New Bands alum has released a woozy third single off of her forthcoming sophomore album, Perfect Shapes, following up her recent pop-forward “Cut Me Off” and trance-like “Overhead.”
“Bad Idea” features one of Kenney’s signature murky dreamscapes. The song crawls along, with almost pained restraint over a sparse singular drum, faded out guitars, and a warm, breathy terrain of synths. Kenney, in her graceful but always slightly smarting vocals, sings about a relationship in which “someone gave up,” but she doesn’t “know who it was.” Her words echo and reverberate, giving a sense of emotional disorientation, as she laments the cliché, gendered role she’s found herself in: “Just like they told me to / Drilling it all in my head / So that’s what the girls do / Showing up for you / For you.”
The spacey but precise and playful production, with bright bell sounds underscoring emotional bursts, is courtesy of Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak, Flock Of Dimes), who worked on all of Perfect Shapes in her production debut. Wasner marks Kenney’s second major indie co-sign and collaborator: Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bear produced her 2017 debut, Night Night At the First Landing.
The accompanying lyric video features a long profile shot of Kenney outdoors. Her face goes uncannily and sometimes grotesquely in and out of focus, while disembodied hands reach into the frame to apply bronzer and eyeshadow to her face. The blurry, disorienting visual seem to mimic the churning space inside Kenney’s head. We see her frowning, eyes closed, appearing to be puzzling out in her head how to exist with agency, as others style her into the woman they want her to be.
Watch and listen below.
Perfect Shapes is out 10/5 via Carpark Records. Pre-order it here.