This ‘Pale hound’ article was written by ‘Jack Press’, a GIGsoup contributor
The ending of a relationship is part and parcel of the catch-22 cycle that has become the emotional rollercoaster we expose ourselves to with the passing of each and every day. It’s human nature, you cry! Well, if you needed a gentle reminder of that sordid fact than the melancholy tones – or drones – of Boston trio Palehound, whose distorted grunge-meets-folk-and-tries-to-be-indie debut record Dry Food feels a little like a post-it-note – or eight – full of those gentle reminders.
Ellen Kempner – Palehound’s vocal mistress – is as eerily beautiful as she is painstakingly melancholy, singing songs to not only pass the excruciatingly painful time that comes after a breakup, but to exact a somewhat manipulative revenge on her previous partner.
Dry Food is a musical landscape like no other – where the softer side of Kurt Cobain goes toe-to-toe with The Smashing Pumpkins before wrestling in a cage with Courtney Barnett and Stornoway. A simply way to say it is to say that listening to Dry Food is like watching an episode of Adventure Time clean – a surreal experience made entirely better when experienced as high as a kite.
Whilst the fuzzy distortedness of opening track Molly will continue to ring and ring and ring in your ears for the next few songs, it’ll cascade into a more lounge-friendly soundtrack-to-a-dream before floating ever so carelessly into a sea of fuzzy distorted riffs and horribly messy basslines whilst Ellen Kempner croons out her feelings from the deep, dark, and utterly dingy caves she’s clearly been keeping them in. Across Dry Food’s miniscule eight tracks, you’ll traverse a sea of melancholy – you’re not safe from it loud, nor quiet, it’s coming for you on this one.
If you thought the album’s backdrop was a weird and wonderful acid trip, wait until you hear the lyrics – which quite honestly can only be described as a childish attack on feelings, courtesy of some sort of magic mushroom, maybe. In all seriousness though, Dry Food is a record that is so lyrically beautiful, yet so bizarre and utterly relevant, that it’ll leave you smiling at its sheer brilliance. How brilliant you ask? Well, how about this one from the title track – “you made beauty a monster to me, so now I’m kissing all the ugly things I see” – do you understand now?
Whilst the last 350 words or so have made Palehound’s debut sound like a mini masterpiece waiting to be given its classic status and a ten-year anniversary play-through, it isn’t quite as good as it may seem on first glance. Whilst lyrically exceptional, and a somewhat viscerally aural insight into the world of hurt Ellen Kempner is experiencing, it isn’t miles away from songs you’ve heard before. Sounding a little too much like a female Tame Impala at times, this record lacks something that jumps out of you and screams – “look at me, I’m amazing, can’t you see?!” – which is an unfortunate realisation considering the positives this record holds.
The stoner-grunge vibes of Cinnamon, and the let-the-acoustic-do-the-talking Dixie could be instant classics for Palehound, yet are left behind in a trail of dust by their lack of something else. When a record lacks that second coat of paint, you know it takes away from the natural beauty of it.
Indie-Folk-Grunge is a thing at the moment – a relationship like no other where some of the world’s most depressing genres come together for an equally melancholic experience – and it’ll probably continue for a while before droning out and returning in five, maybe ten years’ time for its next phase in its catch-22 life cycle. But whilst it survives, Palehound can sleep easy knowing they’ve put out a record as good as the sum of its parts.
‘Dry Food’ is out now on Exploding in Sound Records