by Sean Deveney (@autonomousnloud)
There are some places you just can’t avoid. There’s the grocery store, your job, your bedroom, etc. These are all physical places, but there are mental places that can be unavoidable too, particularly when a significant event has occurred. Palehound’s new album A Place I’ll Always Go focuses on how one’s mind often returns to the same place.
“Hunter’s Gun” starts off the album with a soft, shimmering guitar and muffled drums, which are then followed by singer Ellen Kempner’s breathy vocals. When she sings “You watch TV while I see us growing old,” she alludes to the passage of time, an aspect of the overall theme that becomes clear as the rest of the album unfolds. The song itself is catchy in a haunting way, and the steady and intriguing pace quickly draws in the listener.
On “Room,” the pace is more driving and is led by a warm acoustic guitar riff. The chorus, “She keeps me up at night” is sung powerfully in a restrained and wistful tone. Kempner has stated about the album, “A lot of it is about loss and learning how to let yourself evolve past the pain and the weird guilt that comes along with grief.” In the past two years, she unfortunately has had to deal with the loss of a close friend as well as her grandmother.
“If You Met Her” also directly references this theme of loss: “I’m with someone new, and I know that you would love her if you met her.” Kempner’s close friend is in many ways the mental place to which she will always go as she is constantly reminded of her. She has explained, “A lot of the record is about going on with your life, while knowing that the person is missing what’s happening.” The jaded bass line combines with the tired vocals nicely to convey this message about the intricacies of losing someone important.
The closing song, “At Night I’m Alright with You” seems to contain a fraction of resolution: “I know I’m moaning away all my mornings, and I know I’m sulking away all my afternoons, but at night I’m alright with you.” Musically, the mood is warm as the slightly uplifting bass kicks in for the chorus and Kempner’s vocals retain the breathy sincerity that is heard throughout the album.
A Place I’ll Always Go possesses both negative and positive implications. There is of course the inability to prevent your mind from returning to the memory of an important person and the pain that this brings on, but such memories can also bring comfort. As is seen in the last song, the place to which someone always returns can also change with time as they are slowly able to get on with their lives. Palehound offer listeners dealing with such problems of loss and mental anguish a comforting and sympathetic place to which they can always go.