A PLACE I’LL ALWAYS GO
Palehound’s 2015 debut, Dry Food, established the Boston indie band’s talent with an honest depiction of early-20s discomfort, postbreakup loneliness, and accumulating anxiety. But while the band’s second release, A Place I’ll Always Go, is far from upbeat (much of it grapples with the pain of losing loved ones), it reveals a new sense of comfort in personal convictions.
The album chronicles a turbulent year and a half for vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist Ellen Kempner, who, during that time, mourned the deaths of both a close friend and her grandmother and unexpectedly found new love while in the depths of grieving. On “Hunter’s Gun,” she warns, “Don’t come near me/ I don’t wanna fall in love/ And I can tell a hunter’s gun from its glimmer in the brush.” The line sets up a tension that Kempner spends the rest of the album exploring, delving into the extremes of loss and love.
Palehound’s earlier work refracted scenes through arm’s-length poetry, and A Place
I’ll Always Go uses similar surrealism to magnify the significance of simple moments: “Carnations” indulges daydream escapism when pain becomes overwhelming; “Turning 21” addresses Kempner’s late friend directly, listing the minutiae of everyday life that she’s missing. Kempner’s guitar speaks too, burning with unspoken frustration on “If
You Met Her” and adding a conversational,
everything-is-fine flourish to the ovewhelmed “Flowing Over.”
Beyond its powerful storytelling, A Place
I’ll Always Go offers a public declaration of identity that Palehound’s earlier work avoided. Though Kempner is openly gay, she previously limited any lyrical references to sexuality, sometimes substituting male pronouns in romantic roles to distance herself from a simplistic gay-artist narrative. A Place I’ll Always Go confidently steps away from that concern, most notably in “Room,” a celebration of queer love. Its a reevaluation of artistic values, but it doesn’t dominate an album full of equally strong material. A Place I’ll Always Go is the sound of Palehound coming into its own, calling for listeners to recognize the band’s complexities.