Posts Tagged ‘Yonkers’

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.


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


The debut LP from Boston indie rock band Palehound is inspired by leader Ellen Kempner’s breakup. But like her former camp counselor and roommate, Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis, Kempner never lets a sad jam wallow. Her songs are full of odd little about-turns that elevate Dry Food above the usual plainspoken acoustic indie fare.

On 2013’s Bent Nail EP, Palehound’s Ellen Kempner sang about taking a carrot for a pet in order to stave off late-teen loneliness. She makes similarly childlike gestures on her debut album. “You made beauty a monster to me, so I’m kissing all the ugly things I see,” she seethes at an ex in a so there voice on Dry Food’s title track. It’s the most deliciously futile form of revenge and reclamation: doing the opposite.

Dry Food is partially a product of the 21-year-old Boston-dwelling songwriter’s first big breakup—the deeper kind of solitude of having known and lost someone. Its sound captures the Herculean efforts required to survive the ensuing slump: “All I need’s a little sleep and I’ll be good to clean and eat,” she sings in a medicated sigh on “Easy”, her acoustic guitar rising and dipping with the methodical pace of someone trying to make a new routine stick. But like her former camp counselor and roomate Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis, Kempner never lets a sad jam wallow: she kicks the end of the song into shape with a zippy electric guitar motif and some awkward, itchy squall.

It’s followed by “Cinnamon”, which takes the opposite tack, hooked around the kind of amiable, waterlogged psych burble that Mac DeMarco noodles in his sleep. Kempner sings dreamily about her worst self-defeating impulses, but is stirred from her reverie by a divine revelation that her life is becoming “a pretty lie”. Frantic drums force the song somewhere agitated and ascendant, but instead of bursting into some bright new phrase, the furor falls away like a captivating slo-mo bellyflop.

Kempner has a knack for these odd little about-turns that elevate Dry Food above the usual plainspoken acoustic indie fare. And like her old roommate, she often obscures her intentions between appealingly twisty language. “Mouth ajar watching cuties hit the half pipe/ I only feel half ripe/ Around healthier folk,” she sings on “Healthier Folk”. She distils her disgust at her own post-breakup malaise with perfectly understated images: “The hair that’s in my shower drain/ Has been clogging up my home,” she sings on “Dixie”. “And I try to scoop it up, but I wretch until I’m stuck.” It’s maybe the most straightforward song here, just fingerpicked acoustic guitar, but she messes at it like a cat dragging a mouse into a dark nook.

Saddest of all is closer “Seakonk”, where Kempner protests that she’s not alone, actually; she’s home watching TV with her parents, sister and their dogs. There’s a blithe fairground pirate ship sway to the song, which she closes with a jaunty “doo doo doo” that could have come from the credits of one of the cartoons she’s watching—only she lets the final note deflate with a groan. It’s at this point that Dry Food confronts the point it’s been evading: kidding yourself is no way to recover, and comfort offers little impetus to move on. Palehound’s discomfiting, unflinching debut suggests she knew it all along.

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The sophomore album from Boston trio Palehound, A Place I’ll Always Go, is a frank look at love and loss, cushioned by indelible hooks and gently propulsive, fuzzed-out rock.

Ellen Kempner, Palehound’s vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter 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.”

Kempner’s writing comes from upheavals she experienced in 2015 and 2016 that reframed her worldview. “I lost two people I was really close with,” she recalls. “I lost my friend Lily. I lost my grandmother too, but you expect that at 22. When you lose a friend—a young friend—nothing can prepare you for that. A lot of the record is about going on with your life, while knowing that person is missing what’s happening—they loved music and they’re missing these great records that come out, and they’re missing these shows that they would’ve wanted to go to. It just threw me for a loop to know that life is so fragile.”

Palehound’s first release for Polyvinyl is also about the light that gradually dawns after tragedy, with songs like the bass-heavy “Room” and the gentle dreamy album closer “At Night I’m Alright With You” feeling their way through blossoming love. “The album is also about learning how to find love, honestly, after loss,” says Kempner.

Since forming in 2014, Palehound Kempner, drummer Jesse Weiss (Spook The Herd), and new bassist Larz Brogan (a veteran of Boston DIY who, Kempner posits, “had 13 local bands last year”)—have taken their plainspoken, technique-heavy indie rock from the basements of Boston to festivals around the world. A Place I’ll Always Go was recorded in late 2016 at the Brooklyn complex Thump Studios with the assistance of Gabe Wax, who recorded Dry Food. “I would put my life in his hands,” Kempner asserts. “I trust him so much.”

Palehound in this episode of the Pickathon Slab Series.

A Place I’ll Always Go builds on the promise of Palehound’s critically acclaimed 2015 album Dry Food with songs that are slightly more reserved, but no less powerful. “Flowing Over” rides a sweetly hooky guitar line, with Kempner using the fuzzed-out upper register of her voice as a sort of anxious counterpoint to the riff’s infectious melody. “That song is about anxiety,” says Kempner, “and when you’re sad and you listen to sad music to feed it and feel yourself spinning all these ‘what if’s and ‘I’m terrible’s in your head.”


“This record represents a period of time in my life way more than anything I’ve ever written before,” says Kempner, who notes that the swirling “If You Met Her” and the piano-tinged “At Night I’m Alright With You” could represent the opposing poles of the record. “One of them is about love, and the other one is about death—it was a really healthy experience for me to find my own dialogue within that,” she says. “There’s so much that you learn and read, and other people’s experiences that you internalize, that you try to then base your own on. It was helpful to carve my own path for that.”

Part of what makes A Place I’ll Always Go so striking is the way it channels feelings of anxiety — heart-racing moments both exhilarating and crushing — into songs that feel well-worn and comforting.

The hushed confessionalism of “Carnations” and the fugue state described in the stripped-down “Feeling Fruit” are snapshots of moments marked by big, confusing feelings, but they’re taken with compassion and honesty—two qualities that have defined Palehound’s music from the beginning.