The kids are coming up from behind… Ellen Kempner is a very skilled 21-year old, which means she combines the ability to sound just as you want your punkish-indie singer-songwriters to sound with the electric energy of youth. Dry Food is her debut full-length under the Palehound moniker, out on Heavenly.
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When this played to the inattentive ears and fickle hearts that comprise our cold office, I observed two separate truths: the first song sounds a lot like Ought, and the rest of the record sounds pretty much exactly like Speedy Ortiz. Those are two things I can very much get down with, though listening back now I hear surfier riffs and a more indie pop veering chorus to opener “Molly” -- those excitable, actioning riffs are still there to recall Ought, but Palehound are doing something rather knotty in this song, reaching for and then abandoning tempos like a tired shopper caught in a cereal-selection dilemma.
It’s a great song; let’s move on. “Healthier Folk” has the wistful but scuzzed guitar angles of Speedy Ortiz, but also develops similar melodies, the kind that rise and then immediately fall. Palehound kind of remind me of that feeling you get when you come up with a really good idea and then suddenly begin to doubt it: he elation and its corresponding anxiety is found in the hooks of these songs. “Easy” lulls the record into a lethargic tempo, the drums slack and the guitarist tumbling down frets like someone dragging their shoes across the floor. Ellen Kempner’s songs make such visceral mood music: it organises its feedback, its poppiness and its general misanthropy so well you can picture it coming alive and shrugging at you.
So yeah, it sounds reminiscent, but it also sounds singular. Is that allowed? Kempner treads new ground with tracks like “Dry Food”, a slow-burning slacker track with twinkling effects that subtly cast a skyline over the song; distortion creases its way in and sounds utterly lovely. Let’s just say this is a really good music thing and be done with it.
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- Dry Food by Palehound
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