Posts Tagged ‘Ellen Kempner’

Palehound Black Friday

The very first Palehound songs were acerbic and wired. They could be dark and ugly, even masochistic at times. “Vandalize my body if it helps you sleep soundly,” Ellen Kempner begs on one of her best early tracks. The music she was making back then matched that energy: knotted guitars dripping with sourness and slime. But as Kempner has grown up and settled down, her songs have become less nervy and more quietly assured. Black Friday, Palehound’s third full-length album, is her most accomplished yet. It trades in the slicing guitars that made Kempner so beloved for more pillowy arrangements that sound like something you could fall back on to keep warm. “I think I hate my body/ ‘Til it’s next to yours,” she sings instead here — something once accepting of harm now deserving of love.

Love abounds on Black Friday. At its center is a healthy partnership that feels like a safe bubble, one that isn’t liable to fade away any time soon. “Aaron,” one of Kempner’s most gorgeous songs, is about supporting her partner through his transition, and it’s filled with tender-hearted declarations of devotion that slide out into open air. “You live your life with your back turned to me/ Your body swaying, voice steady in stance,” she sings. “If shutting my mouth will help you/ Turn around, Aaron/ I can, I can, Aaron, I can.” Even more than the specific experience, “Aaron” is about learning how to be comfortable with what we’ve been given, about wanting to feel weightless in the face of life’s burden. “Rid of our bodies, come and float with me,” she beckons. It’s the happiest Kempner has ever sounded in her music, when she’s opening herself up to new forms of love.

Palehound’s last album, A Place I’ll Always Go, had happy songs like this, too, but they were tempered by songs about death. That album was written shortly after Kempner’s grandmother and a close friend passed away in quick succession, and a lot of those songs were dealing with the disconnect that comes with happiness arriving at the most inopportune time. But Black Friday accepts happiness as something that we’re entitled to, that everyone should feel regardless of their situation. “If there’s anything I learned while I was back in town/ It’s that nothing worth loving ever sticks around/ But you,” Kempner sings on the last lines of this album.

Her newfound stability allows her the opportunity for some perspective to explore devotion in all its forms. Some of the most impressive songs are about friendships and partnerships that didn’t work out. On the album’s title track, Kempner reflects on one such friendship where she constantly felt like an afterthought, but a mislaid sense of dedication kept her coming back for more. “I’ll take being the last one on your mind,” she sings. “Still squeeze me in, never cared about waiting on your line.” The album’s title comes from this clever barb: “You’re Black Friday and I’m going to the mall,” a reminder of our tendency to keep doing things that we know are bad for us, like keeping up the ties of an imbalanced friendship or stoking the memories of an old flame, like Kempner does on the anthemic “Stick N Poke.” There she adopts some of her clanging old-school dramatic flair for a shout-along chorus: “I think I’m due for a shitty tattoo! I only have these thoughts when I’m missing you!”

A good relationship will only get you so far away from your demons, though, and Kempner still falls into old patterns of negativity on Black Friday. Love isn’t a cure for self-consciousness and self-loathing. The feeling that you’re never going to be enough is pervasive, that expectation that the worst will happen never really goes away. On “Worthy,” she pokes at that old wound of unworthiness: “I text you late at night/ I’m in the motel bathroom/ Staring at my thighs.” But Kempner leans into that fear, using it to remind herself of how far she’s come already. “At the thought of losing you/ My muscles hum familiar tunes/ And curl me to a naked ball/ Wet on our shower floor/ How do I unfurl from here?” she sings on the album’s closing track. But the difference between then and now is that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of another half that understands where you’re coming from and accepts you for who you are.

Black Friday’s central visual motif is a plush puppet mask (created by Gaudmother) that’s featured on the album’s cover art and recurs in its music videos. In the one for “Aaron,” we see this puppet before it assumes its final form. It’s rough-looking, covered in lint and muck, a gigantic outer protective layer that ends up being shed as it runs wildly through the streets, emerging into a cozy and lovable Muppet-like creature, delightful in its awkwardness. Kempner achieves a similar transformation with this album. Her gnarled guitar lines have given way to soft-focus serenity, warm keys stemming the anxiety that once threatened to envelop her. Her bitter edge has opened up to vulnerability and light.

Black Friday is out 6/7 via Polyvinyl Records.

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Boston-based Palehound have returned with a brand new observe known as “Killer,” which we known as one in all the most effective songs of the year. It was a welcome comeback, and it continued final month with the discharge of the track“Aaron” and information of a brand new album known as Black Friday.

Right now, Ellen Kempner’s band is again with one other new track and video for “Worthy.” In a press launch, Kempner says the observe is “about feeling unworthy of affection even inside a relationship. It’s about years of being conditioned to hate my physique and the shock of discovering somebody who isn’t telling me to vary. Selecting to consider the one that believes in you is a wild journey particularly when it correlates with ebb and stream of a partnership.”

The “Worthy” video was directed by Home Of Nod’s Robert Kolodny, who additionally helmed the “Aaron” video, and touches on comparable themes and imagery. Kempner confirms that this one is a continuation: “It’s the identical characters however on this one I’m mask-less and speaking my approach in direction of my companion, our shrinking distance represented by a string that ties us collectively.”

Howdy everyone!

Hope y’all are enjoying “Aaron.” It’s been really special for me to put that song out into the world. I was having anxiety about it but y’all put that to rest with your overwhelmingly kind response. Also the video by House of Nod is the best music video we’ve ever had!! Makes me feel excited about doing/ releasing more.

The full album, Black Friday, will be out on 6/7 on Polyvinyl Records who have been ultra amazing. I feel the proudest of this record of all the things I’ve done. Gabe Wax was my co-producer again and he’s a magician. We’re also gearin’ up to take these songs to a city near you with our favorite band Big Thief in October. Counting down the days!!

Thanks so much for everything, love y’all can’t wait to see you on the road

Boston-based trio Palehound have announced their third album, “Black Friday”, marking the occasion with the release of their lead single “Aaron.” The forthcoming record, due out on June 7th via Polyvinyl Record Co., examines love and the many different ways it can take shape in our life. “Aaron,” in particular, explores love of one’s own body, and connects to singer/songwriter Ellen Kempner’s partner.

Kempner says of the track and its music video in a statement:

“Aaron” is a character that represents my partner, who is trans. It’s not specific to his experience though, the song is about change in relation to our bodies in general. It’s about learning to be comfortable in our skins, whether that means changing our bodies or mindsets. Robert Kolodny directed the video and captured this theme perfectly through portraying physical insecurity as living in an unruly, amorphous body and gradually shedding it.

The video for “Aaron” takes Kempner’s gentle, heartfelt storytelling and gives it an artistic texture that is both fitting and unexpected. Kempner sings underneath a knitwear mask, crafted by Gaudmother, as a figure runs around the streets in a ghillie suit made out of yarn. In the end, both figures take off their knit masks and are haloed by light, a visual representation of their own newfound self-love and body empowerment.

On Black Friday, Kempner and bandmates Jesse Weiss (drums) and Larz Brogan (bass) hope that their art will help others who are struggling. She herself knows the therapeutic benefits of music, explaining:

What I always want to do with my songs is to help people heal in some way, or come to some new understanding about whatever it is that they’re going through. Even if it’s just hearing a song and feeling less alone than they were before, that would mean so much to me.

Kempner produced the record with Gabe Wax (Beirut, Soccer Mommy). Palehound recorded their latest project at Panoramic House in Stinson Beach, Calif.

Watch the video for “Aaron” (dir. Kolodny) check out the album art for Black Friday and the band’s national tour dates with Big Thief

Palehound (aka Ellen Kempner) has shared a brand new song, “Killer.” It is out now via Polyvinyl Record Co. and shared in honor of her current tour dates.

“With the new track, Palehound is teasing more new music to come,” a press release notes.

It may be the middle of February, but “Killer” is what Halloween-themed playlists have been wishing for. Dreamy, plucked guitar sequences invite the listener into the portrait of a walk home alone, down a sidewalk by the woods where the moonlight cuts through just enough to make you second-guess flickering shadows. Steady drums and a creeping, sinister bass slink in, ensnaring your attention before Kempner’s mesmerizing voice is heard crooning lines like, “Just because I feel the devil in your bed / doesn’t mean it’s you.” Wailing, howl-like riffs carry out the ominous dreamscape to a spine-tingling finish.

The song’s menacing undertones, while hypnotic in their delivery, touch on a more serious topic. “Quite frankly, this song is about the murderous fantasies I have about all of the people who have abused my friends and how they continue to live their lives unpunished,” Kempner said in a statement.

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Death is cruelly indifferent, and no matter how expected or seemingly random it is, Palehound’s Ellen Kempner understands as much as anyone. In relatively close succession last year, the Boston-based songwriter faced the unforeseen death of a friend, and the passing of her grandmother, and was left reeling as a result. Palehound’s second full-length album, A Place I’ll Always Go, cannot help but be informed by these experiences. Channeling her grief into honest songs about mortality and the search for closure, the album reveals details from her personal life like never before.

Still, for all its rumination, this album gradually projects a flicker of light amid the darkness: During this same tumultuous time, Kempner found herself entering into her first healthy relationship. A Place I’ll Always Go grapples not only with the contradictory flood of emotions and guilt that arise when attempting to move on, but with the burgeoning excitement of new love. Recorded in late 2016 at Brooklyn’s Thump Studios with assistance from Gabe Wax (who also worked on Palehound’s superb 2015 album, Dry Food), A Place I’ll Always Go galvanizes its bedroom confessionals with Kempner’s dexterous finger-plucked arpeggios and buzzy guitar melodies, and the propulsive rocking energy of drummer Jesse Weiss and bassist Larz Brogan. Palehound adds richer instrumental shadings on the album’s bookends: Palehound’s unflinching songs are also a celebration of life and embrace of love, and an empathetic reflection on how endings usually lead to beginnings.

“Carnations” is taken from Palehound’s latest album, A Place I’ll Always Go, out now.

Hope y’all are getting through what feels like the longest January ever. I along with House of Nod have made a new music video for “Carnations” that I’m really proud of and super happy to share with y’all. I’m usually really nervous/uncomfortable on camera but between House of Nod and the AMAZING dancers I was too busy having my mind blown to be nervous 🙂  I hope y’all like the video

Palehound is the lo-fi indie rock project of Boston-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Ellen Kempner. Kempner came to music early, writing her first songs at the age of ten. Citing influences like Elliott Smith, Angel Olsen, and Kim Deal, her songs are confessional and often caustic with a wry, offbeat edge. While studying music at New York’s Sarah Lawrence College, she released her debut EP, Bent Nail, on Exploding in Sound Records.

A quirky mix of grunge-folk and ’90s-influenced indie, the release garnered some buzz and Kempner eventually dropped out of school to focus her efforts on songwriting and recording Palehound’s first full-length. Working with producer Gabe Wax (Wye Oak, Speedy Ortiz) and a newly minted rhythm section of drummer Jesse Weiss and bassist Nick Koechel, Kempner recorded her first LP, Dry Food, which was released in the summer of 2015 by Heavenly Records. After switching over to Polyvinyl in early 2017, Palehound have followed up with A Place I’ll Always Go, a reflective album about love and loss.

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The death of a loved one is an inevitable aspect of life for everyone, but we’re never quite prepared for it. Whether it’s unforeseen or expected, it’s always a shock that can send us reeling when it happens. Ellen Kempner, the Boston-based songwriter and guitarist of Palehound, understands this firsthand. In relatively close succession last year, Kempner experienced the sudden death of one of her close friends and, later, the decline and passing of her grandmother. “I have been pretty lucky my whole life up until now to have not lost anybody significant to me,” Kempner tells NPR. “It’s always been one of my biggest fears: losing family or a friend … Honestly, the only way I could think to make sense of it was to write songs about them, for them, and about myself in the midst of it all.”

On A Place I’ll Always Go, the forthcoming follow-up album to Palehound’s superb 2015 debut, Dry Food, Kempner documents this tragic period of her life in revealing detail, channeling her grief into compassionate and relatable songs that mull over love, mortality and the lingering ache felt with their absence. She also grapples with the overwhelming, sometimes at-odds floods of emotions and guilt that arise when attempting to get back to everyday life — which can often feel insignificant in the aftermath of loss, but is crucial to healing.

The results can be heard on the new album’s galvanizing first single, “Flowing Over,” which both captures Palehound’s trademark sound — scrappy and buzzy guitar rock, bolstered by Kempner’s dexterous riffs — and, thanks to the band (which now features drummer Jesse Weiss and bassist Larz Brogan), also offers some darker, nuanced shades that evoke the album’s themes. On “Flowing Over,” Kempner is as direct and personal as ever. “And I know your words are sugar but now’s not the best time for me / I’ve got teeth with roots down to my feet,” she sings before careening into the cathartic chorus, “Flowing over ’til I’m empty!”

Kempner says she wrote “Flowing Over” as “kind of a callout to myself to get my act together. I have really bad chronic anxiety and always find myself doing things that perpetuate it, like listening to a sad song when I’m already super down. It’s a masochistic habit I have of psyching myself up so intensely that I explode and then spend the rest of the day feeling helplessly exhausted.” And while Kempner describes listening to sad songs in order to feel better, “Flowing Over” feels like the type of song people might turn to in their own tough moments.

When coupled with a fantastic music video, “Flowing Over” takes on a different meaning. Featuring the Boston League Of Women Wrestlers (or BLOWW), the video, directed by Jay Buim, depicts a group of women and non-binary wrestlers preparing for a match: They suit up into wild, colorful costumes and evocative makeup; assemble their DIY ring; and do some stretches. And then it all erupts into an all-out, action-packed melee — full of flips, chokeholds and pummeling faces into mats. While the ferocious, fun exuberance matches Palehound’s heavy power chords and gnarly hooks, the video also infuses the song with a message of inclusion and empowerment.

In a statement to NPR, Kempner reflects on the video’s origins:

The first time I saw BLOWW perform, their energy was so intoxicating that I couldn’t get them out of my mind for days. Watching other women/non-binary people exert so much of their time and energy into their passion, I immediately felt inspired to step up my game.

“Flowing Over” is taken from Palehound’s album, A Place I’ll Always Go, out June 16th, 2017.

Boston’s Palehound, lead by fierce vocalist and prolific creative force Ellen Kempner, has announced the sophomore album “A Place I’ll Always Go”, released in June on Polyvinyl Record Co. The collection is a frank look at love and loss, cushioned by indelible hooks and gently propulsive, fuzzed-out rock. As Kempner explains, “A lot of it is about loss and learning how to let yourself evolve past the pain and the weird guilt that comes along with grief.” 

This year has really probably been the best year of my life, especially as a musician. I can honestly say that almost every show was great. At the end of 2016, right after recording A Place I’ll Always Go, I was feeling super anxious and unsure about touring a lot. Playing shows and travelling used to make me feel super vulnerable and paranoid. I can truly say that this year has turned my relationship to touring around and I feel the opposite about it, I am so excited to tour more. A lot of this is because ya’ll were so amazing and supportive and made us feel really special at shows. Thank you so much for that. Cannot wait to tour with Weaves in February, I love that band a lot and have a really good feeling about that tour.

Also wanna say that this wraps up our first year with Larz touring with us. Jesse and I have been touring together for 3 years and the addition of Larz to our band has been hugely awesome for us. I love Jesse and Larz so much and can’t wait to keep working with them on touring and new material.

Happy holidays, hope everyone has a pleasant end to their year. Sending extra love to all the beautiful people reading this who may have a hard time with the holidays and going home to family.
Love, Ellen

Palehound leader Ellen Kempner described the origin of the tracks found on YMCA Pool in saying, “I’ve had these songs laying around forever and could never really find a place for them on a record. After we toured with Bully, Alicia Bognanno offered to record some stuff for me at her house in Nashville, which seemed like a great opportunity. We spent two days hiding from the heat in her house recording… and also at Dave and Buster’s. I love Alicia she is truly the best.”
releases January 26th, 2018

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Ellen Kempner of Palehound.

Finding a songwriting voice takes time and then there’s also the process of pinpointing the best way to send that voice hurtling through speakers. Palehound’s Ellen Kempner has long had the words: scathing and evocative, And with every live show, she’s finding surer and surer footing as the central focus in a band that marries rock muscle with her bedroom folk’s wiry vulnerability.

At an NPR Music showcase recorded live at New York City’s (Le) Poisson Rouge in the fall of 2015, Kempner opened with a quick confession  “I’m really nervous” before channeling those nerves into her raw, powerful songs, accompanied by bassist Davood Khoshtinat and drummer Jesse Weiss. That rawness can take several forms, from the kiss-off brutality of “Molly” to the gnarled slow burn of “Seekonk” and “Dry Food,” the title track from Palehound’s excellent 2015 album.

SET LIST
  • “Healthier Folk”
  • “Molly”
  • “Psycho Speak”
  • “Dry Food”
  • “Cinnamon”
  • “Drooler”
  • “Cushioned Caging”
  • “Seekonk”
  • “Pet Carrot”