A Place I’ll Always Go
Blink182 famously sang “Nobody likes you when you’re 23” in the late 90s with their pop-punk hit “What’s My Age Again.” Maybe we can blame it being the last century, but along with aliens, and plenty of miscalculated tracks in their repertoire … blink is wrong. Palehound is led by Ellen Kempner—she is 23—and wouldn’t you know it, there’s plenty to like. With the release of their sophomore album A Place I’ll Always Go on Polyvinyl Records, Palehound exudes further confidence and lo-fi sparkle. Grounded in indie roots, the album packs in playful twists and turns to stand out.
“Carnations” opens with a clean snare pop and crisp high hat beat from drummer Jesse Weiss and is encountered by a humbly plucked guitar that comes in less polished. Shortly after Kempner sings in a hushed tone, “They’re still in love with their ex, and I’m not feelin’ my best … this is a bad combination.” The mix of the instruments is a telling combination with Kempner’s words, adding a layer of cloudy emotions. Like indie/grunge forefathers and sisters, there’s a polished sound that refuses to abandon the charming quirks and feeling of DIY standards.
Tracks like “Turning 21” have powerful pop sensibility, with dreamy hooks and twirling guitar solos. It has blissful, bright rhythms that would be best played in one of those fields like a Blind Melon video. Bass lines amble softly in the back as the lyrics touch on all of the mundane and magical activities happening without a lost friend. Even the dull afternoons feel different to Kempner as her friend can’t share the in between moments. They’d fit perfectly as a tour mates with Nirvana or Elliot Smith given the personal perspective and ability to create an aural merry go round.
At ten tracks, Palehound give us a lot to think about in relationships. Kempner’s whispered tones add to the lyrical output as if she’s sharing her innermost secrets. “Feeling Fruit” quietly unveils how she wanders the grocery store with a deep loss, seeing someone in all that surrounds her. The people, the fruit, and the moment are all distracted by her feeling of being alone. It’s numb and seemingly simple. Trimmed back to her voice and guitar primarily, the sentiment is very touching. That delivery is what makes Palehound connect on an intimate level.
A Place I’ll Always Go explores this loss and Kempner’s loves with a delicate balance, a reminder to savor what we have in every moment. Bobbing between large, summery rhythms and tender thoughts the album is an agile collection of songwriting.