This Palehound article was written by Fraisia Dunn, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Ben Kendall.
New York based, Palehound, fronted by 21 year old, Ellen Kempner, have been making waves in the States since their formation in 2013. They have been applauded for their live shows, and their debut album, ‘Dry Food’ has been lauded as one of the best releases of 2015.
Palehound make lo-fi grungey goodness, with plenty of time changes; the bass throbs, drums drive and the guitar carves the melody out of the middle. What makes Palehound stand out is that this feels like an organic process; these staples of shoegaze are used as tools of expression, rather than a nifty way to show off.
The album starts with a four count before a rocking bass line comes in with plenty of growling guitar. ‘Molly’ has a surf feel, but is a simple ditty. The guitar gliding up and down swift scales about half way through that, show a level of craft not often aspired to in this genre.
“Too stoned taking antibiotics, I feel my infections wrestle in my bones,” starts ‘Healthier Folk’. The slow tempo, the rhythm of the lyrics, the detuned wonky guitar that strays into a helter-skelter spiral of scales, point to Pavement, with all of their musical intelligence and witty lyrics.
‘Easy’ follows; a fuzz fest of emotion pours out, “been bursting with the storm that’s making you sleep on the floor, a swollen sickly guest,” each word is punctuated by a strum of bass and guitar.
“Mellow cringey ugly fellows, mixing water into gin and chasing it with cinnamon,” is one of the many lovely lines in ‘Cinnamon’, and shows how each song title appears in an almost incongruous but key manner. ‘Cinnamon’ is dream pop with a silky 60s guitar melody, that builds into a euphoric mess, with drum rolls and inaudible vocals invoking God, before slipping into well-crafted pop once again.
The title track, ‘Dry Food’ is a country waltz of evident sadness, “Oh but I’m over it, over it,” she tries to convince us/herself. This simple tune stands out from the angst and noise of the rest of the album; although Kempner is clearly in pain, she seems to have quite a grip on what is wrong in in ‘Dry Food’.
The heart-breaking scratched-up acoustic guitar, simple melody and incisive lyrics make ‘Dixie’ an immersive experience. Particularly the end when the angelic-like vocals rise up, with Kempsey almost tentatively convincing herself to join in. It is like she is uncertain of which voices in her head to listen to.
The storm builds with ‘Cushioned Caging’, the doo-whops, rocking bass and moments of fading twangs make the maelstrom spin, “I knew you were a close call, I love you, it’s all my fault,” take us through the chaos of a mind left to reel.
The Hawaiian surf sound of ‘Sea Konk’ brings us to the end of the record with a gentle bump. As the slide guitar swoops at the end of every bar, we hear about how she has been burnt and is seeking solace with her family. Of course, there is the ever present pull of outside, “before you go, strap me to the bed, the bed is getting cold again.” Here is the crux of this album; the draw of life and the sanctum of safety that are mutually incompatible come together in Palehound’s music.
In the future, it will be fascinating to see what breaking out of the mind will be like for Palehound. For now, this album is a great musical interpretation of the experience of a lonely soul.
‘Dry Food’ is out on the 3rd March 2016 via Heavenly Records and Exploding Sounds Records.
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