Madeline Kenney - Signals
Jun 3rd, 2016
A moment in a room with a song can last much longer than the lifespan of the sound itself. That’s the Madeline Kenney effect. Her music produces an instant feeling of vulnerability and joy. Kenney’s songs always wrench your guts, whether bouncing off nightclub walls, whispered in a studio, or filtered through your headphones.
It was this type of brief encounter at a San Francisco venue that compelled Kenney’s friend Chaz Bear (Toro Y Moi) to offer her a spot on his Company Records label (Les Sins, Vinyl Williams). Soon after, the duo were in Bear’s Berkeley studio recreating Kenney’s live performance in what would become her first official release. The resulting Signals EP delivers the sting of Pavement with the glow of Sharon Van Etten. Like an insect floating in amber, these four songs are enveloping and uncanny in all their loveliness.
A product of the Bay Area’s ever-evolving pop music sensibilities and deep-rooted experimental tendencies, Kenney’s live act has evolved to employ members of local groups including Astronauts, etc., Bells Atlas, and Perhapsy. Originally from the Pacific Northwest with a background in neurobiology, Kenney moved to the Bay Area in 2013 to pursue a career in baking. Her music gained new shape and nuance while living in Oakland—spurred in no small part by the new community. Kenney’s writing process and individual sound developed with alacrity, and in 2015 she began to perform at local venues and clubs. Out this June, the Signals EP is the best representation of the year Kenney has had, and no doubt a glimpse into many lionizing moments to come.
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• Produced and recorded by Chaz Bear (Toro Y Moi, Les Sins)
• Live act includes members of Astronauts, etc., Bells Atlas, and Perhapsy
Raised in the Pacific Northwest, the nature of the region is important to songwriter Madeline Kenney. A soil-tethered root to the natural world is subtly noticeable in Kenney’s art. Bare feet, fresh fruit, the brilliant moon. Despite her affinity for the green leaves and the black grass, Kenney has lived rather nomadically, transferring her being and belongings for long stays in the mountains of British Columbia, the islands of Hawaii, and around the globe. She moved to the Bay Area in 2014 to pursue a career in baking. In Oakland, a supportive arts community inspired great growth as a musician. A chance encounter with Company Records label head Chaz Bear (Toro Y Moi) led to them recording the Signals EP together, along with Kenney’s brand-new album, Night Night At The First Landing. An accomplished debut with a cohesive sound, Night Night is a record balanced by serene beauty and cathartic breakdowns. Kenney’s huge voice delivers emotional brushstrokes and unexpected lyrical knots.
It’s fortuitous how her move to a waterside city for a life of pre-dawn kitchen work led to preparations for life on tour and inspired countless hours of music-making. “Everything has felt very accidental,” she says. Though Night Night At The First Landing is technically her first full-length, music has always been a key part of her life. Singing came naturally to the bold-voiced Kenney and she was singing loudly before beginning to study piano at the age of five. To call Night Night At The First Landing a “debut” is something of a misnomer, as those who know Kenney best might note: she’s always made music. For the sake of music lovers, she hopefully always will.