CBC First Play Live: The Details

By Holly Gordon, CBC Music

It was a stormy day in Riverport, N.S., when Mo Kenney and her band set up at the Old Confidence Lodge for her First Play Live session in August — but that didn’t keep anyone away from the Lunenburg County recording studio that sits more than an hour outside of Halifax.

Usually a three-piece — bass, drums and Kenney with her guitar — the setup for this newly released album, The Details, requires space for four. That’s because Kenney’s first concept record (and third full-length) has “so much guitar stuff going on,” the singer explains.

“Before [acoustic guitar] I played in bands and stuff all the time, and usually I exclusively played electric guitar. So I’ve just been sort of leaning back toward that avenue,” Kenney says.

The followup to 2014’s Juno-nominated In my Dreams, The Details is Kenney’s first co-production credit (with Joel Plaskett), and is a louder, deeply personal collection. [READ MORE]

I Can’t Wait

If You’re Not Dead

On The Roof

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Roots and Branches reviews The Details

By Mike Davies, Roots and Branches

Tagged as Canada’s answer to Lorde or Lana Del Ray, Kenney delivers a concept album that journeys from a recent bout of depression, self-destructive alienation and oblivion to confrontation and redemption. It starts off with Cats Not A Cake, a short sparse number about contemplating the end of a relationship and what happens to the shared cat. Then things crank up as it launches into On The Roof, a barrage of angular indie riffery that suggests a less intense and experimental Throwing Muses or Belly filtered through nuts and bolts garage. Following the title track one of three tracks clocking in under 60 seconds, June 3rd slows it down for an Elliott Smith influenced track build on a bedrock of keyboards as she faces up to her behaviour (“I’m such a liar, I’m such a cheat”), Maybe I Am shifting to a dreamier sound, albeit till with those snappy electric guitar riffs, while Out Of The Window is a floaty, ethereal ballad, a distinct contrast to the following feral mid-tempo rock of If You’re Not Dead where she kicks some unwanted lover out of her bed. [READ MORE]

Canadian Beats reviews The Details

By Gary Preston, Canadian Beats

Nova Scotia’s award-winning artist Mo Kenney releases her third album, The Details hot on the heels of recent single Maybe I am. The 14-track album features the recent single ‘Unglued’ and Canadian Beats think it’s something of a masterpiece!

Since breaking onto the scene back in 2013, Kenney is no stranger to plaudits, but even at first listen this is a beautiful and gritty album, with so many contrasts. Beautifully written songs, authentic playing and a really sweet production that allows the vocals, and the retro guitar sounds to ring true.

There’s a definite progression in Kenney’s songwriting prowess. Vulnerable, honest, sad; charting the pitfalls of 21st-century relationships. Each song hangs together with a bittersweet and dark humour in a style that she is making all her own. It’s hard to pin her down; she is slowly carving out her own niche as an East Coast Elvis Costello. Ups, downs, highs, lows, The Details charts her personal path in what feels like a therapeutic release.

After the LP’s ‘Cats not a cake’ quirky but meaningful intro, she launches headfirst into guitar heavy ‘On The Roof’. It sets the tone and leaves you wanting more. ‘Maybe I am’ with its chord heavy opening evokes a west coast surf vibe…Weezer meets Alvvays with an awesome guitar solo, before moving into the interlude of ‘Counting’. [READ MORE]

The Details

1. Cat’s Not A Cake
2. On The Roof
3. Details
4. June 3rd
5. Maybe I Am
6. Counting
7. Out The Window
8. If You’re Not Dead
9. Unglued
10. I Can’t Wait
11. Video Game Music
12. Lights Out
13. Punchy
14. Feelin’ Good

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With her third album, The Details, Mo Kenney traces her own strange, devastating, and ultimately hopeful trip through the trials and tribulations of booze-fuelled breakdowns, clouds of depression, and disintegrating relationships. On each of its 14 tracks, she unflinchingly confronts her annihilation and eventual redemption, leaving nothing out. The concept album is her most personal and cohesive work to date—combining elements of bruising rock ’n’ roll, vivid psychedelia, and haunting, left-of-the-dial pop, Kenney navigates the darkest waters in her life with self-deprecation, genuine soul-baring, and typical black humour. It opens with a calm before the storm as the eerie sadness of “Cat’s Not a Cake”—about splitting a beloved pet in half as a relationship falls apart—provides a deceptively gentle beginning to a ride that swiftly steers into self-destruction.

Following up with the off-the-rails overdrive of “On The Roof,” The Details explodes out of the gate, finding Kenney unable to escape the dangerous spiral she finds herself in. Before and during writing the album, Kenney was en route to rock bottom: depressed with dark blues and drinking like a fish, unable to hold herself or her relationships together, alienating the people she loves, and living hell-bent on oblivion. She comes to terms with her own toxic behaviour while channeling the late Elliott Smith through spectral atmospheres on “June 3rd.” With “Maybe I Am”—a reverb-soaked tune that turns to punchy guitar riffs—she realizes in the midst of trying to hook up with someone that she can’t interact with humans properly. The hazy, laid back calm of “Counting” finds her worried she’s fallen so far into despair that she’s losing her mind. And the vicious, rollicking “If You’re Not Dead” shows her playing warped mind games over feral guitar solos and biting hooks.

Somewhere along the way, Kenney finds herself dazed and broken in a place that not many people find their way back from. “Unglued,” with its breezy sway, is likely the most summery song put to tape about being fed up with your own messy self. “I Can’t Wait” recalls the gauzy dreamscapes of Yo La Tengo with a hushed and grateful understanding that as bad as things are, it’s not the end of the world. But it’s not necessarily smooth sailing from there, as Kenney struggles to stay optimistic with “Lights Out,” and sings about getting clocked in the face at a bar by some meathead during “Punchy.” Still, she can’t help but find the hilarity in getting slugged, slyly laughing through her bloody teeth the whole time.

Finally, she arrives in less troubled seas, closing softly on the sparse, clear-minded “Feelin’ Good.” The storms weathered to get there may be the kind that leave lasting scars (or at least a few post-bar stitches), but with clear skies on the horizon, Kenney wears those scars as a reminder of what she’s been through, and the kind of seasons in hell she’s capable of enduring. Her latest is a record of all those storms and the routes and detours and trials of pushing through them while keeping her sense of humour gracefully intact. By turns rowdy, reflective, brave, funny, and deeply honest, it signals an already accomplished songwriter coming fully and completely into her own as an artist. Produced by Mo Kenney and Joel Plaskett, The Details vividly documents Kenney’s fight to survive her own worst enemy—herself.

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November 2nd, 2017
The Seahorse Tavern
Halifax, NS
9:30 PM
Licensed 19+ Show
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January 27th, 2018
Carr Gallery - Willard Arts Center
Idaho Falls, ID
7:30 PM
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