Album Of The Week

Album Of The Week: Madeline Kenney A New Reality Mind


Madeline Kenney is used to making music in the company of others. Her 2017 debut album Night Night At First Landing was produced by Toro y Moi; her next two, 2018’s Perfect Shapes and 2020’s Sucker’s Lunch, were made with Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner. Through these creative partnerships, Kenney has homed in on a sound that bears the sonic fingerprints of her collaborators but retains a perspective all her own. The dreamy unreality of her earliest material has blossomed into expansive electronic rock songs that are reminiscent of Wye Oak’s post-Civilian output — but starting with 2021’s Summer Quarter EP, Kenney has opted to go it alone, producing everything herself from her basement in Oakland.

A New Reality Mind is the first full-length that she’s made under these circumstances, and its self-assuredness makes it her most satisfying album yet. Kenney has always exhibited an exacting attention to detail — every guitar lick and rubbery synth feels deeply considered; she makes true headphones-listening music. Left to her own devices, A New Reality Mind sounds even more pored-over and tweaked-at than anything that she’s done before. It’s a simmering, dynamic delight, undercut with a sense of malaise brought about when the stable existence she thought she’d carved out for herself collapsed around her.

On Kenney’s last album, Sucker’s Lunch, she sang about falling into love; A New Reality Mind represents the comedown and crash. The relationship that imbued Sucker’s Lunch with such uncertain but palpable joy has turned to ashes, an abrupt split that left Kenney reeling and searching for answers as to how it all could have gone so wrong. “When will I be the same again?” she asks on one track, launching into a potent verse: “When will I see myself again?/ In what direction, and with what friends?/ I cry in the bath and can’t quite see in the morning/ When I was young, I learned how to fly off the handle without warning.”

Throughout A New Reality Mind, she likens herself to a child: naïve and unassuming; she blames the way she was raised, an ingrained tendency to believe that everything that’s good will always remain that way. On album closer “Expectations,” she tries to find understanding in her upbringing: “I think I learned about communication the wrong way,” she admits, and later on: “I wanna call on the education I threw away.” Her confusion is emphasized by the fact that she recorded the album on her own — an echo chamber of unhealthy recurring thoughts and behavioral patterns that feel inescapable. “That way of living, I’m over it,” she insists on one track — easier said than done. Kenney’s heartbreak feels both uniquely devastating and frustratingly mundane: a “plain boring disaster,” as she puts it.

These break-up songs are couched in music that is airy and bright and crisply textured; Kenney’s instruments pop and crackle like an ASMR recording. Take “I Draw A Lane,” whose cascading wobbles and creaks give way to soaring harmonies. Or the suffocatingly busy “Superficial Conversations,” where Kenney’s voice peeks out beneath a gratifying chug. Her choices on A New Reality Mind are consistently surprising: the way “Plain Boring Disaster” cuts out in a whiff of static just as you think it’s going to explode into a reverie, how “HFAM” slugs and sputters to its conclusion. Though Kenney recruited friends to play some of the instruments on A New Reality Mind, she spearheaded the recording herself, and it contains some of her lushest, most ambitious moments to date: the jazzy, crashing percussion on “Leaves Me Dry,” the spacey synth theatrics of the album’s quasi-title track.

It’s a testament to Kenney’s growing strength as a songwriter and producer that she can execute these moments in such vivid detail. A New Reality Mind might have been born out of some rough emotional turmoil, but the result is an album on which Kenney has never sounded more sure of herself or her intentions. Out of loneliness and heartache, a newfound autonomy prevails.

A New Reality Mind is out 7/28 via Carpark Records.

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Other albums of note out this week:
• Joni Mitchell’s AT NEWPORT live album
• Post Malone’s Austin
• The Clientele’s I Am Not There Anymore
• Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s The Ones Ahead
• Carly Rae Jepsen’s The Loveliest Time
• Travis Scott’s Utopia
• Georgia’s Euphoric
• Bush Tetras’ They Live In My Head
• Bethany Cosentino’s Natural Disaster
• Jessy Lanza’s Love Hallucination
• Steve Marino’s Too Late To Start Again
• Chief Adjuah (formerly Christian Scott)’s Bark Out Thunder Roar Out Lightning
• George Clanton’s Ooh Rap I Ya
• Skeleten’s Under Utopia
• Mutoid Man’s Mutants
• dreamTX’s living in memory of something sweet
• Dexys’ Feminine Divine
• Susanna’s Baudelaire & Orchestra
• High Pulp’s Days In The Desert
• Kacey Johansing’s Year Away
• Locate S,1’s Wicked Jaw
• Echosmith’s Echosmith
• Gunn Truscinski Nace’s Glass Band
• Alexander Hacke & Danielle de Picciotto’s Keepsakes
• Chika’s SAMSON
• Rhys Langston & Pioneer 11’s To Operate This System
• Brad’s In The Moment That You’re Born
• Sevendust’s Truth Killer
• Dot Allison’s Consciousology
• Damon Locks & Rob Mazurek’s New Future City Radio
• No Rome’s Blueboy Must Die
• The Maine’s The Maine
• The Big Net’s Like Dogs
• Sore Dream x Hisham Akira Bharoocha’s Sore Dream x Hisham Akira Bharoocha
• Daniel Rossen’s Live In Pioneertown & Santa Fe
• air miami’s Me.Me.Me. deluxe reissue
• Various Artists’ Godspeed… A Tribute To Pierre Kezdy
• Aphex Twin’s Blackbox Life Recorder 21f / in a room7 F760 EP
• Dead Heat’s Endless Torment EP
• Fly Anakin’s Skinemaxxx Side B
• Kyle Nix & The 38’s’s After The Flood Vol. 1
• Blood Runs Cold’s Blood Runs Cold EP
• Mac Krol (Mike Krol & Mac McCaughan)’s debut 7-inch

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