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Palehound - Dry Food

  • Published in UNX

Dry Food
is the debut album from Palehound, the outlet for 21-year old Boston resident and multi-instrumentalist Ellen Kempner who first made herself known in 2013 with her Bent Nail EP. That noisy and eclectic collection got some well deserved attention, showcasing Kempner’s bold imagination and a wee hint of star power. Some time has passed but it sounds like she’s been busy.

The LP has a bit of a bedroom quality to it, but not quite in the way that has become associated with lo-fi, merely meaning “rough” - Dry Food plays like the end result of years spent locked in a bedroom, it sounds both introverted and researched, almost academic. It feels like the product of a young life spent learning; whether that study be in the form of absorbing records, practising with any instrument available (Kempner plays every note on the album, save for the drums) or simple self-reflection. In a recent interview with She Shred Magazine, Kempner described herself as “a queer girl who just wanted to rock out”. In the cold (in more ways than one) state of Connecticut, Kempner appears to have found sufficient motivation to not only move on to different regions and seek more interesting and diverse scenes but also to create an LP that acts as the perfect calling card to earn her an invitation internationally.

Though there’s a 90s alt tint to the majority of the LP, similarities (it would be arrogant to presume influences) can be drawn to innumerable different artists, genres and decades. Forceful opener ‘Molly’ brings jittery classic, ‘The Boy with the Perpetual Nervousness’ by The Feelies to mind, the slacker melodies and effortless rhymes of ‘Healthier Folk’ have loose similarities to Stephen Malkmus’ delivery, while the more confounding ‘Cinnamon’ feels like the triangle center of Meat Puppets -Up on the Sun, especially Funkadelic and The Ronettes. Kempner has mentioned an affinity for riot grrrl and while nothing here really lets loose in the same way as a Bikini Kill might, the defiance and freedom of expression is present on even the LP’s quietest moments. She sings about anxiety, she sings about depression, she sings about girls, she sings about whatever she wants, whatever feels right. Artists who miss the 90s are not especially rare, but what Palehound do sounds less like a rehash and more like a reassessment.

With this album it’s hard to say if Kempner is finding herself or merely sharing herself but Dry Food is a statement from a young woman who sounds and feels like a star. If there’s one criticism here, it’s that it looks as though Palehound will have even better albums to come and that’s a nice prospect.

Dry Food is available via Amazon & iTunes.

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