Critique de salon: The Details – Mo Kenney

Par Olivier Dénommée, Critique de salon

La Néo-Écossaise Mo Kenney impressionne par son parcours, plutôt impressionnant pour une auteure-compositrice-inteprète de 27 ans. Elle avait reçu une certaine attention avec sa précédente sortie In My Dreams, mais elle tente de vraiment surprendre et de laisser sa marque avec sa troisième sortie, The Details, où elle s’ouvre sur des épisodes plus noirs de sa vie.

Coproduit par Kenney et Joel Plaskett (qui a signé la production de ses autres albums également après avoir accepté de la prendre sous son aile), l’album s’ouvre sur une introduction dépressive qui nous rappelle l’évidence : Cat’s Not a Cake. On change vite de sujet avec On the Roof, sur un ton pop rock assumé et franchement entraînant. Dommage, elle ne dure pas assez longtemps et on en aurait bien redemandé! On fond rapidement à l’énergique Details (qui dure à peine 30 secondes) avant de passer à la déprime de June 3rd.

Les morceaux sont très brefs, et en consultant la liste, on y voit que la plus longue n’atteint même pas la barre des 4 minutes. Bref, on comprend vite qu’on ne peut pas se permettre de trop s’attacher à une chanson, car elle est déjà finie et on passe à autre chose. Surtout, chaque piste représenterait une étape dans le parcours dépressif de l’artiste, si on se fie à son dossier de presse. [READ MORE]


By Alex Cook, The East

Talk about hooks. Mo Kenney’s third album, The Details, grabs us with the tragic tale of woe and heartbreak and the impending doom of a cat. “I know you’ll try/ to take the bigger side/ but a cat’s not a cake.” Inside the first 35 seconds of the album we’re taken through this whirlwind of emotion, across what is essentially a sweet song, subjected to atrocities, and left in tears by our own tragic appreciation of dark humour. Just like that, we are hooked for whatever Mo Kenney wants us to hear for the next half hour.

The Details feels like a journey. Not a linear one, but the sort of troubled journey one experiences internally. In short sequence we rush through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and deep sexy grooves, though not in any particular order, often reversing and doubling back. Strangely, for a concept album, it’s Kenney’s most personal album to date.

It’s a concept Kenney is very familiar with. She was diagnosed with severe depression at the age of 15. She dropped out of school at the age of 18 and began drinking as a coping mechanism. Writing the album coincides with Kenney’s return to therapy, and a return to better state of mind. She gave up drinking and experienced a new sense of clarity. While the album starts in a dark place, there’s an optimism to it and a certain self-awareness that’s likely the source of all this tongue-in-cheek dark humour.

After the opening track—and the lamentable fate of a split-custody cat—Kenney immediately launches us into the crowd-rousing track, ‘On The Roof’. It embodies the bipolar nature of the album, with its manic energy and self-destructive subject matter as Kenney implores, “Call me down from the roof, again.”

The album’s title track is just 30 seconds, but carries with that manic energy through what feels like an argument conducted as an internal monologue: “You can’t have the story if you won’t hear the gory details.” Then it immediately flips to the dreamy ‘June 3rd’ that’s full of self-degradation and bargaining. There’s the abrupt and almost volatile ending to ‘Maybe I Am’, the simplistic and juvenile sense of displacement of ‘Counting’, the beautiful and mournful juxtaposition of ‘Out The Window’ that makes us wonder if Kenney is being literal and if maybe a police report should be filed. All of it reads like a laundry list of someone who isn’t coping and instead is living entirely inside their own head. [READ MORE]

The Chronicle Herald: Kenney doesn’t skimp on The Details

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]

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

View all albums


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
Buy Tickets
January 27th, 2018
Carr Gallery - Willard Arts Center
Idaho Falls, ID
7:30 PM
Buy Tickets


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