Musician Mo Kenney poses for a photo inside Julien’s in the Hydrostone Market. (RYAN TAPLIN / Staff)
By Tim Arsenault, The Chronicle Herald
Mo Kenney’s new album begins with a worrisome ditty about a cat.
The Halifax singer-songwriter kicks off her third record, The Details, outlining how the pet has become communal property, and the proposed solution is distressingly Solomonic.
“When we break up, we’ll have to split him in half,” Kenney coos in Cat’s Not a Cake. The song lasts only 35 seconds but serves as the scene-setter for what’s being marketed as a concept album from Kenney about a black hole born from broken relationships and boozy reactions.
Over 14 diverse tracks, Kenney bravely serves the listener a slice of her life.
“I’m really proud of this record,” she said during an interview.
“It’s my favourite record so far. I feel like it’s really me. I’ve shown it to a few of my friends and they say, ‘It really sounds like you, to me.’”
Fans who know Kenney only through her first two albums — 2012’s self-titled debut and 2014’s In My Dreams — may be slightly taken aback at first by the new record.
Popular tunes like Sucker and I Faked It tastefully presented a performer with a self-deprecating wit and a shy side. The Details, which Kenney co-produced in Dartmouth with Joel Plaskett, is more like a glass of ice water thrown in your face during an argument.
“It was just instinct,” said Kenney, 27.
“I write pretty personally anyway. I think this period of time sort of brought that out in the lyrics. I wasn’t concerned when I was writing it; I’m not really thinking about that part of things. It was when I got into the studio and started recording the songs and cementing them, that’s when I started having a little bit of anxiety because I knew I’d have to start talking about it.”
Stylistically, the record juxtaposes dreamy, Beach Boys-esque pop with angular rock that recalls the Velvet Underground. The package is a short, sharp shock that lasts barely 30 minutes and features plenty of electric guitar from Kenney.
“I just did what I thought fit with the song,” Kenney said.
“I’ve always been able to shred. When I first started playing guitar, when I was 11, I started on electric. I’m just going back to that thing. That’s what I’ve always really liked doing. That’s one of the reasons I like this record so much. There’s so much guitar on it and it’s fun to play live.”
Kenney’s also not concerned about any potential fallout from her fan base because the new record is something of a departure.
“After the second record, I wanted to do something a bit different for the third one. The second record was a bit of an extension of the first record; they’re kind of in the same vein, so I wanted to branch out,” she said.
“I’m making music because it’s what I like to do, and this is the kind of record I wanted to make. I’m not really thinking about anything else.”
Kenney has a show Nov. 2 at the Seahorse Tavern in Halifax with her new bass, drums and two-guitar lineup. She said the aggressive new material is sounding good alongside her earlier work.
“I’ve already been playing a lot of the new stuff in the sets. It fits totally fine. I just have to make sure the arc of the set list makes sense.”
The arc of The Details traces an interesting path, too. Take Punchy, for instance, in which Kenney sings about a particularly scarring incident when she was hit in the face at a bar. [READ MORE]