Madeline Kenney – Perfect Shapes (4 stars)

Madeline Kenney – Perfect Shapes

Measured and tender follow-up from the Oakland singer-songwriter

Madeline Kenney is clearly in a hurry. Just a few months after the release of her 2017 debut Night Night at the First Landing, the Oakland singer, songwriter, neuroscientist, nanny and baker was back in the studio collaborating with Wye Oke's Jenn Wasner who took production duties on what has now become the ten-track Perfect Shapes. Yet, the end result has no sense of someone rushing anything, as there is measure and restraint and tenderness among each number.

The shimmering and loopy 'Bad Idea' has a Heaven or Las Vegas-era Cocteau Twins sheen about its chorus while lead single 'Cut Me Off' has jerkier guitar rhythms (and a great promo video where she dances about an office building) but slips off into an ambient dreamscape around the two-thirds mark. At this point, Kenney's own description of her sound as 'twang haze' should finally make perfect sense.

The muggy summer feel of 'No Weekend' also takes a quick turn off the road when you least expect it, though this time with discordant, Bowie-esque brass instrumentation. There's also a touch of the warmer months in 'The Flavor of the Fruit Tree' but it might be too much of a saccharine-fuelled Lily Allen take-off in places for some.

Not that there's much time to get annoyed at any of the songs, with the longest track clocking in at the four-and-a-half minute mark. So when a lesser-enjoyed beast such as the largely directionless 'I Went Home' gurgles to its end, the title track looms immediately into view with an insistent synth-pop vibe which could also easily accompany mojitos by the pool, but which winds down into an airy dissolve. Leaving the best for very nearly last, penultimate song 'Your Art' is a swooning, instant indie classic with sharp guitar interruptions and a vocal melody that threatens to take off into outer space.

Out Fri 5 Oct on Carpark Records.

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