The Oakland-based singer-songwriter Madeline Kenney says in a press statement that she spent a lot of time talking to friends about "the theme of the idiot" while writing her new album Sucker's Lunch. There's a hint of self-deprecation to that — especially considering the critical acclaim that Kenney garnered for her Toro y Moi-produced debut Night Night at the First Landing in 2017 and its strong 2018 follow-up Perfect Shapes.
But as the first single from Sucker's Lunch shows, Kenney is more interested in cyclical compulsion than straightforward faceplants. On "Sucker" — a deft and graceful song, premiering above, featuring vocals from Lambchop's Kurt Wagner — Kenney sings about persevering in spite of other peoples' doubts, losing the "fun" in life, and eventually coming out the loser.
"When I lived in Durham, I found myself sitting in the sun on the porch with a musical hero of mine, who was worried about losing their healthcare and not being able to afford to tour," Kenney said in an email to The FADER. "It blew my mind and broke my heart that such a genius had to struggle with uncertainty in trying to make their art. I wrote 'Sucker' when I realized that all of us continue to make art, and fall in love, and attempt things that logically could fall apart at any moment, but we are fools for the game and keep producing, keep pursuing. I asked Kurt Wagner to sing on the track because I feel like he is consistently brave in his songwriting (and I'm a HUGE Lambchop fan). When he sent me the stems, I drank a martini and cried."
The video for the song, directed by Kenney herself, carries that theme further, with the singer playing a scammer who's only hurting herself. "I'm a huge fan of con-movies," she wrote. "My favorite film is Paper Moon. I wanted to direct a video that put me as the con-man, whose existence relies on making suckers out of passers-by; but ended with me being the biggest loser of all. I lucked out when my favorite Oakland diner, Lois the Pie Queen, let us film on location."
Watch the video for "Sucker" at the top of the page. Sucker's Lunch, co-produced by Kenney and Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, is out via Carpark Records on July 31, and you can pre-order the album here.
Thumbnail image c/o Madeline Kenney.