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Archive for the ‘Palehound’ Category

[POSTPONED: March 28, 2020] Palehound/Adult Mom/Corey Flood

indexI have seen Palehound twice (and Adult Mom once).

Palehound singer/guitarist Ellen Kempner is a fantastic guitarist and a really compelling frontwoman.  So when I saw that she was playing Boot & Saddle, I definitely wanted to see her once more.

Adult Mom is the creation of Stephanie Knipe.  I was really impressed by the Adult Mom band, especially drummer Liv Battell. I don’t know if it would have been the same band or a solo show, but I’m sure it would have been a great set.

Corey Flood is a band I haven’t heard of. They describe themselves as “west philly basement goth” which has a certain appeal.

Later on it was announced that Control Top was playing the same night across town.  I was genuinely torn about which show to go to, since I already had a ticket to this one.  But I was actually leaning towards Control Top since I’d only seen them once.

There are so many good or promising Philly bands right now, it’s an embarrassment of riches to be able to get to them so easily.

I guess a silver lining is that these shows are no longer in conflict and if they get rescheduled I may be able to go to both.

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SOUNDTRACK: PALEHOUND-A Place I’ll Always Go (2017).

Ellen Kempner’s voice is a bit louder in the mix so you can really hear the words despite the fact that she is still singing mostly in a whisper.

It’s a logical step from her previous album and every thing sounds a bit bigger and a bit better.

“Hunter’s Gun” is slow and a little creepy with the echo on her vocals and her whispered lyrics.  There’s also some great weird effects floating around in the background–especially by the end as the echo more or less takes over.

“Carnations” starts simply enough with a quiet chugging riff.  But the chorus is a wonderful–louder guitar with the guitar and vocals doing the same catchy melody.  It also has some great lyrics

They’re still in love with their ex
And I’m not feeling my best
This is a bad combination

‘Cause I’ve been dreaming I might
Just up and bail on this plight
And maybe go on vacation

Pack up my shit in the dark
And if the car doesn’t start
It spares us both conversations

“Room” is slower more acoustic-feeling.  It’s a sweetly romantic song with the lovely chorus line “She keeps me…  at night.”

“If You Met Her” starts out kind of sinister musically, but it has a really catchy chorus as well  It’s a wonderful song about breakup and new love perfectly summed up with this ending line

I’m with someone new
And I know that you would love her if you met her

The set up of rocker followed by slower song continues with  “Silver Toaster,” a loose, acoustic song that reminds of a snarky/simple Nirvana song (with a banjo solo!)

“Turning 21” has a big shoegaze guitar sound and a wonderfully catchy melody in the bridge.

“Flowing Over” mixes some good guitar lines and a rocking mid bridge section but its the oh oh oh oh section and the way it changes throughout the song that is the major hook.

“Backseat” opens with pulsing keys.  It’s a dark mediation that segues into the beautiful guitar of “Feeling Fruit, ” a pedestrian-seeming lyric that is much deeper and quite moving.

“At Night I’m Alright With You.” is a quiet moody song with a real Twin Peaks vibe.

These two releases are great but to really get to see how amazing Ellen is, check her out live.

[READ: January 23, 2018] “A Change in Fashion”

When I read this recently it sounded really familiar.  Clearly I had read it back in 2006 and it was so striking that I remembered it 12 years later.

And indeed, it is a memorable story, even if it’s not especially profound or funny–it’s mildly amusing and thoughtful.

Basically, this is an account of the way fashions changed after the Age of Revelation.  Girls and women were happily showing off their thongs but it was as if, after a half a century of reckless exposure, a weariness had overcome women…a disenchantment to invite a bold male gaze.

At first girls were opposed to it–it reminded them of old photographs in boring albums.  But soon it became stylish to wear dresses that brushed the floor–wearing lambskin gloves and rising collars. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PALEHOUND-Dry Food (2015).

I have seen Palehound twice, once as a headliner and once as an opening band (in that order).  I love Ellie Kempner’s guitar style and her slackerish vocals.  Her lyrics are usually incisive and the way she pulls all of that together is really terrific.

Her recorded output is pretty stellar.  She has a few EPs and/or singles and then this, her first album, which comes it at less than 30 minutes.  It features some of Kempner’s great guitar, prescient lyrics and really catchy songwriting–a potent combination.

“Molly” opens with a great rumbling bass line, a cool guitar riff and a wonderful overdubbed distorted guitars.  It’s immediately catchy.  The whole verse is crazy catchy and then after two lines, she adds a new riff before returning to the first one.  There’s so much going on and its all terrific.  Next up is a cool bridge followed by a third part with yet another great guitar soloing type of riff and loud chorus of “ooooohs.”  There is so much going on in this song, I was shocked to see that it’s under 3 minutes long

“Healthier Folk” starts out as a kind of bedroom-sounding acoustic guitar song, but after a verse there’s a trippy chorus with soaring guitars

Mouth ajar, watching cuties hit the half pipe
I only feel half-right
Around healthier folk
But oh, why don’t hold me?
They just
Cradle me like a homesick child

Mid way through, the guitars get louder with a heavy riff before returning to that trippy middle section.

Even though Kempner rocks out, she also has some slower songs.  “Easy” is a slow song with this great line: “I’m pushing back your tongue / With my clenched teeth home security system.”  I love how the chorus (and more) is just a blast of noise without speeding up the tempo of the song.  Two thirds of the way through, the song picks up briefly (“All I need’s a little sleep”).  And the last thirty seconds are a wild, chaotic-sounding series of riffs (with a noisy feedbacking guitar solo).

“Cinnamon” has yet another terrific riff.  Live, this song absolutely scorches–vocally and guitar wise.  This version is a little tamer, but you can really hear what a great guitarist she is.

“Dry Food” starts slowly, with a pretty guitar line and a cool vocal delivery.  I love the way the verses are slow and the chorus builds into a strangely catchy melody without really picking the tempo up.

“Dixie” is a quiet confessional with some great lyrics and a catchy chorus.

And people that I’ll never meet
Have been showing up naked in my dreams
And I try to close my eyes but I really want to see
Their breasts like eyes are staring back at me

The hair that’s in my shower drain
Has been clogging up my home
And I try to scoop it up but I retch until I’m stuck
To stare and gag into a Dixie cup (with a cough on the repeat of this line)

“Cushioned Caging” is a more aggressive rocker, but her vocals don’t really match the guitar loudness, making you lean in to hear her.  The disc ends with “Seekonk,” the longest song on the disc (nearly 5 minutes).  It’s slow with a couple of different parts to flesh it out.

Kempner really showcases the various aspects of her songwriting.  It’s a really solid album and could easily be much longer.

[READ: January 15, 2018] “The Little Boy”

This short story was interesting in that it seemed far more about an old woman than a little boy.

Mrs. Bea Davis is walking through an airport after visiting her daughter Megan in upstate New York.

We learn a lot about her and her daughters Megan and Susan as well as her ex-husband.  We learn some about her because she is talking to her self.  A woman with a small boy passed and the boy turned to look at her.

The trip had been okay, as best as could be expected. Bea felt that Megan and her husband enjoyed making fun of ugly people (“That guy is like an anteater in leisurewear. That girl, she can’t wear that dress, look at her stomach.”)  the way Bea’s own sisters Tomasina and Livia would go to Woolworth’s and comment on the ugly poor people.    (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 16, 2018] Courtney Barnett

 I’ve enjoyed Courtney Barnett since I first heard her a few years ago.  I had also heard that her lives shows were fantastic and put her high on my list of artists to see.

So when she and Kurt Vile did a tour together Sarah and I were right there.

But that was a different thing altogether.  The Kurt and Courtney show was pretty laid back and folkie.  Whereas Courtney’s solo music tends to be loud and confrontational.

So when she set out to tour for her upcoming album (which came out two days after we saw her), I grabbed tickets right away (they sold out by the end of the day). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: May 16, 2018] Palehound

I saw Palehound three months ago at Johnny Brenda’s.  This may be the shortest span between concerts for any band that I’ve seen.

Last time they were opening for Weaves.  For this show Palehound was opening of Courtney Barnett.

I was very excited to see them again because I enjoyed their last set so much.

Guitarist/songwriter Ellen Kempner, is a great front woman–she blasts the guitar and is really great at her solos.

The set was similar to what they played last time, with a different slow song and no “My Pet Carrot.”  But it was full of raging rockers that got us pumped for Courtney. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 8, 2018] Palehound

I also first heard Palehound on Tiny Desk.  I was really impressed with the range of songs that Ellen Kempner played as well as her dynamic guitar work–from pretty melodies to seriously scorching solos.  But it was her other show (from (Le) Poisson Rouge in the fall of 2015) that NPR broadcast that really made me want to see her live.

So getting Palehound and Waeves in one show was pretty awesome.

I was pretty delighted that she said she was inspired by Weaves to make their setlist fast in the beginning–she was ready to rock out.  And so she started with some of her best full-on songs.

Kempner is fun to watch (she was wearing that cool dress and some big work boots) as she switched effortlessly from wailing guitar to singing and sometimes both. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 8, 2018] Weaves

I saw Weaves on a Tiny Desk concert and knew I had to see them live.  Their songs are poppy and definitely a little weird.

I was particularly excited that their show was a double bill with Palehound–two bands who I like a bunch on the same bill.  Normally I know that a double headline show like that means that both bands play fewer songs, but since both bands only have two albums each it’s not like they were each going to play for two hours anyhow.

Vocalist Jasmyn Burke sings in a fun and peculiar style–hitting interesting falsetto notes and growling and screaming.  On their first album, the guitars (with a fast vibrato effect) often followed her vocal line in a kind of manic way.

Their second album has less of that but the songs are no less energetic and are still rather manic.

I loved when guitarist Morgan Waters came out to warm up.  He played some great, unusual sounds (I guess his rig was plugged into a laptop?).  I was really psyched for the rest of the show imagined what was in store. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 8, 2018] Tall Friend

Tall Friend is a Philadelphia band which seems to be the creation of Charlie Pfaff, who writes the songs, sings and plays guitar.  She has a quiet, almost deadpan delivery and her guitar playing is nicely spare.  The band is rounded out by Cale Cuellar on bass and Jesse Paller on drums.  For this show they had just added a fourth member, whose name I forget.  All I remember is that he was barefoot (!) and his guitar wasn’t loud enough!!.

They were supposed to go on at 9.  But they didn’t go until like 9:25.  Of course, they played nine songs in 20 minutes, so it’s not like they were running late.  Turns out they have an album out but it, too, is only about 18 minutes (and an EP that’s about 11 minutes).

I was right up against the stage, but I gather the guitar was not in the main speakers, because it was much louder than the vocals.  I moved back a bit and that helped, but I probably should have moved to a different spot to fully appreciate the band (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SNAIL MAIL-Tiny Desk Concert #650 (September 15, 2017).

It’s always encouraging that young musicians are still picking up guitars and writing catchy and interesting songs.  I’d never heard of Snail Mail, but finding out that lead singer/guitarist Lindsey Jordan graduated high school last year is pretty cool.

I think that it helps to have some connections, though:

Jordan started Snail Mail at 15 and released the quietly stunning Habit EP via Priests’ in-house label last year. She’s quickly found fans in Helium and Ex Hex’s Mary Timony (who also happens to be Jordan’s guitar teacher) and just went on tour with Waxahatchee and Palehound.

They play three songs.  On one it’s just her, but on the first two, she is joined “by what’s become her consistent live band (drummer Ray Brown and bassist Alex Bass).”

“Slug” has a propulsive verse and a cool thumping bridge.  It’s an ode to a slug, in fact, but it also looks internally: “I have waited my whole life to know the difference and I should know better than that.”  I really like the way the song builds and builds and then drops out for a second for a few curlicues of guitar.

Her lyrics are wonderful mix of maturity and teenager (I do like the “my whole life bit,” but I really like this couplet from the next song “Thinning.”

I want to face the entire year just face down / and on my own time I wanna waste mine.
spend the rest of it asking myself is this who you are / and I don’t know it just feels gross.  (And her delivery of the word “gross” is wonderful).

From her reaction and this blurb, I guess the band is a bit louder than what they play here:

Because we often ask bands to turn down for the office space, she jokes, “I guess I don’t really know what we sound like because we’re so loud. Now we’re quiet and Ray’s using the mallets and my guitar’s all the way down — I was like, ‘We sound like this?'”

For the last song, the guys leave as she re tunes her guitar:

Jordan closes the set solo with a new song, “Anytime.” It is, perhaps typically for Snail Mail, slow and sad, but the alternate guitar tuning and Jordan’s drawled vocal performance gives this song about a crush an aerial motion, like acrobats sliding down a long sheet of fabric.

With just her and her guitar this song is far more spare and less bouncy but it works perfectly were her delivery.  I also like watching her bend strings with her third finger while playing a chord–she has learned some mad skills from Timony for sure.  I wish I had seen them open for Waxahatchee, that’s a bitchin’ double bill, for sure.

[READ: October 20, 2016] Diary of a Tokyo Teen

Sarah brought this book home and it seemed really fun.  It’s a look at Japan through the eyes of a girl who was born there about 15 years earlier but then moved to the U.S. with her family.  She is older and somewhat wiser and is delighted to have a chance to explore what is familiar and unfamiliar.

And it’s all done in a simple comic book style diary which she self published at age 17.

So Christine flies to Kashiwa, a small city outside of Tokyo to stay with her Baba and Jiji (grandparents).  She says the best reunion (aside from her grandparents) was with her favorite fast food chain unavailable in America: Mos Burger (you eat the wrapper because it would be messy to take it out of the wrapper).

What I love about this book is that unlike a more formal guide book, Christine is a typical teenager with typically American experiences.  So she notices that the people who work fast food are happy–or at least appear to be.  She’s also aware right form the start how trendy the other kids are.  And while an adult might not care, for a teen aged girl, that’ pretty devastating. (more…)

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4416SOUNDTRACK: PALEHOUND-Tiny Desk Concert #521 (April 11, 2016).

palehoundPalehound sounds like they would be kind of a scruffy roots rock band.  But they are about as far from that as you can get.  Rather, Palehound are the embodiment of alt indie rock–a literate confessional songwriter playing spare grungy music behind her emotionally wrenching vocals.

Back in February, Palehound played a showcase for NPR (you can see it here).  In the live setting, the band was noisy and rocking and singer/guitarist Ellen Kempner’s distortion was turned way up.  She doesn’t shred, but she makes a giant noise.  She is backed by a bassist and a drummer–spare but effective.  And her voice is comfortably uncomfortable meaning her angry lyrics and intentionally less than pretty singing works perfectly for the music she writes.

But for this Tiny Desk, she strips away a lot of the noise and lays bare both her sound and her voice.  As the blurb says, these three spare, nervy renditions of songs from 2015’s Dry Food are, naturally, a bit rawer and more exposed… But, with the aid of drummer Jesse Weiss and bassist Davood Khoshtinat, Kempner uses that intimacy to her advantage.

The first song, “Pet Carrot” opens with a simple guitar riff and Kempner’s delicate  voice singing “my best friend is a parrot and I say things that he won’t mind” (this part reminds me a bit of the melody from “Brand New Key” from Melanie.  When the band kicks in (bass and drums) they ground the song.  Her guitar style isn’t flashy at all but it works really well with her understated vocals.

She switches guitars (“the old switcheroo”) and Bob says they admired this guitar.  She says they were on tour with PWR BTMM who are so glittery so she bought whale stickers and bejeweled the guitar.  Bob says that PWR BTTM will be here in Feb (so not only did Palehound’s show air two months later but it was put out after PWR BTTM’s).

For “Dry Food,” her vocals are much deeper and even more delicate.  Her guitar playing is great—picking the high notes with her fingers and playing bass notes with her thumb.  The drum is simple–keeping the beat–while the bass adds a low end.  Again, the lyrics are great: “You made beauty a monster to me so I’m kissing the ugly things I see.”

The final song, “Dixie,” is just her singing and playing guitar.  It’s a simple ballad, but not a happy one.  I like the way she repeats the last line of each verse–like a poem.  The song feels like a dream and confessional at the same time:  “People that I’ll never meet have been showing up naked in my dreams and I try to close my eyes but I really want to see their breasts like eyes are staring back at me, their breasts like eyes are staring back at me.”  I love the slow chord she plays at the end of each verse too—a punctuation after each thought.  And then this line: “The hair that’s in my shower drain has been clogging up my home.  And I try to scoop it up but I wretch until I’m stuck just stare and gag into a Dixie cup, just stare and gag into a Dixie cup.”

With her full band there’s a lot more dissonance both in her guitar sound and the chords she plays (and she talks about new merch–Nail Polish called Nailhound by Palehound).  This band is really something.

[READ: January 23, 2013] “God’s Work”

This is a story of faith and questions.

Sanders is a college aged boy (I think–it says sophomore, and they live near a college, so I assume he is in college).  His mother is a devout woman who goes door to door with pamphlets inviting people to Fellowship.  They aren’t Mormon–in fact I can’t decide what their religion is.  They don’t believe in hell, just a void, but she says that, of course, you would rather have God’s eternal love than nothingness.

Sanders loves his mother and his faith is certain.  But he is a teen-aged boy with urges and an imagination.  And being around college-aged girls (while he must wear a heavy black suit) is unsettling.

Most people simply shut their doors in his mother’s face (which does not deter her) but every once in a while people invite her in.  Sometimes for good reason and other times to give them a hard time. (more…)

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