New Zealand has Lorde – the UK has Foxes – and the U.S. has Lana Del Rey. All of these artists are strong female singer-songwriters who decided to take an alternative and unique approach to the music they create. Canada’s response to this trend of strong female singer-songwriters is the irresistibly beautiful, Mo Kenney. Her self-titled debut album comes in the wake of winning numerous awards like the 2013 SOCAN Songwriting Prize award and an award at the 2013 Canadian Folk Music Awards for New/Emerging Artist of the Year. All of these accolades are enough to tell you that Mo Kenney is an artist not to be taken lightly and her debut album shall not be anything short of brilliant.
You shall not be disappointed – Mo Kenney is sublime. You’re led into the album by the beautiful opener “Eden”. It is, what I like to call, a Juno soundtrack song. It is a very folksy song with bits of pop influence. Mo Kenney has a beautiful and almost angelic voice which is perfectly accompanied by the gentle acoustic instrumental resting behind it. Kenney delicately spins lyrics like “For the second time everything is working in my mind / all the puzzle pieces are in-line”
I am a total sucker for her song “Sucker” (mind the pun). “Sucker” is this irresistibly cute and upbeat song that greets you with the lyric: “Hey, I’m a sucker for your face”. The song really reminds me of a much more upbeat and indie-pop version of Lorde. “Sucker” has an infectious beat and a catchy tune that gets stuck in your head – aka, I’ve been humming the song for nearly a week.
“The Great Escape” is one of those songs that actually does let you escape, coincidentally, into the upbeat/acoustic goodness of the track. Whenever listening to the song, there are two images running through my head – one of me dancing through a meadow and the other jumping into a car and going wherever the road takes you. It really reflects the sense of escapism that the song seems to embody, completely.
“I Can’t Talk” is a slightly more somber and folksy song. The track is accompanied by a melancholic guitar strumming amidst Mo Kenney’s soulful and mournful vocals. She quietly utters lyrics like “I can’t talk about the corners in my mind / Tried to tell you once but you ran away once to hide”. The song seems to reflect on a failed relationship and the eventual impact it would have on her daily interactions.
“Scene of the Crime” is packed full of brooding indie rock energy. Kenney sings the lyric “I live on a razor blade”. Curiously, the guitar riffs feel like razor blades as they snarl with distortion in the background. Even Kenney’s vocals take on more of a brooding quality than the norm. The perception is that the song is about walking away from a failing relationship and then wondering if she’ll ever see the ex-lover again, or ever return to that same situation. It is also packed with a sense of regret as she does not want to lose this person. She sings the lyric “Just give me one last life” as if to hint that she wants another chance.
“The Happy Song” provides us with a brief respite from the moody quality of the previous songs. It does live up to its name of “The Happy Song” (which is seemingly thematic, at this point). It is quite literally a song about being happy/trying to stay happy and in control of one’s emotions. The song is accompanied by a delicate and uplifting guitar strumming.
The rest of the songs on the album are truly sublime, maintaining a very acoustic feel to them as they deal with various human emotions. Most of the songs revolve around the concept of love and romance, especially dealing with the troubled side of romance – break-ups and attempting to keep failing relationships from falling apart. In between the gentle acoustic sounds is the fun and upbeat “Déjà Vu” which is all about moving on.
After hearing Mo Kenney, it is understandable as to why Mo Kenney has won so many awards. She spins beautiful songs that deal with such raw and human concepts. She doesn’t rely on fancy techniques to grab your attention, rather she simply grabs her guitar, plays a few chords and bedazzles you with that beautiful voice. She has an air of simplicity and uniqueness that makes her stands out amongst numerous other artists. Canada, you’re on the path to redemption after the Justin Bieber fiasco.