words by ross jones
The process of grieving is an anomalous and at times isolating encounter that we must face. The way in which the pain of loss is dealt with is different for everyone, yet ultimately and undoubtedly necessary to qualm overwhelming and intense feelings that may perhaps never truly subside. Ellie Kempner, with her band Palehound, has written a record wholly directed by a stage in her life that was less influenced and more governed by having to deal with the unquestionably difficult exercise of coming to terms with loss. In making ‘A Place I’ll Always Go‘, Kempner has provided a record of profound exploration of the self at such an unpredictable passage that we all must experience, and exhibits how music has the power in aiding growth and healing.
Outright, the record is a significant identifier of the direction in maturity Kempner is taking further with Palehound. The off-kilter and idiosyncratic turns in her approach remain a staple character not only of the music but her own personality, evoking the naturally human shape of character through sonic processes. ‘Carnations’ busies itself around muted chords and Kempner’s hushed yet reaching vocal, eventually forming itself around a surprisingly comforting melody for the vented frustration that grows within the track’s chest. The spare, haunting synths that introduce Backseat cast a foreboding shadow, Kempner’s vocal untainted further in its hushed altitudes as she sings of seemingly tangible despondency inflicting on the mental journey as much as the physical one – a distinct variance notable in the way her songs diverge, much like the drum led middle phrase of the aforementioned. It compliments Kempner’s striking affinity for unenclosed emotions in her lyricism, giving evidence that her music is in no need of polishing, it’s wonderful in its truest sense.
A Place I’ll Always Go seemingly documents a turning point within mourning as Kempner provides songs as if letters to her dearly lost, engaging with them in a vastly open and cathartic form. It’s plain in sight veracity makes it stand aghast, the record obviously a vocal approach at melodic remedy for the artist as much as the listener. ‘Silver Toaster’, one of the record’s enrapturing highlights, is as balanced and raw as they come, and all the more stunningly poignant for it – digging at the straining chords as the days seem to be blurring in the most unexpected of ways and it’s a struggle to quite find your feet.
It’s quintessential follow-up ‘Turning 21’ exhibits Kempner’s almost playful sombreness with her habitual necessities that retain such familiarity – the corner of the block that was an imaginary yet unarguable marker for how far your parents would allow you to ride your bike, the store down the road that you would grow up to work at before you even know it. Her ability to amalgamate her frustrations and anxieties and infiltrate them with the senses and moods around her is comprehensive and fulfilling.
Passionate, unexplainable and, ultimately, comforting,A Place I’ll Always Go is Ellie Kempner attemptsing to come to terms not only with the loss of such close loved ones but, also, the day-to-day existence of life; in the moment and how you’ll feel about it all tomorrow. As difficult as that might be, it’s indisputably a great thing that we have someone brave enough to try and work it out.
‘A Place I’ll Always Go’ is out now – buy it here