Palehound Eye On The Bat
Back in 2020, Palehound was getting ready to tour in support of the album Black Friday; not only were those plans canceled, singer, songwriter and guitarist El Kempner’s romantic relationship dissolved as well. Their latest album Eye On The Bat is what Kempner calls “a documentation of illusions shattering in the face of profound change.”
Eye On The Bat kicks off with “Good Sex,” a story song for the ages that paints a picture of an intimate moment gone wrong while Kempner loses their composure a bit and can’t help but laugh as they sing “bad sex makes a good joke that anyone can get.” In fact, many of these songs are intensely personal, particular moments that on the surface pertain only to Kempner’s experiences, but the affable way they deliver the tales makes them relatable.
After the strolling acoustic strum of “Independence Day” the record moves into full-on rock with “The Clutch,” one of the highlight tracks for me (read our previous review of the single).The guitar solo cuts like a knife; later on the album “Head Like Soup” brings around another moment of guitar brilliance. Kempner’s solos sound like catharsis and command attention.
Eye On The Bat is a record made up of varied approaches, from the previously mentioned rock to the electronic bop of “U Want It U Got It” to the lazy country roll of “Route 22” and the folky “Right About You.” It can make the album seem like a collection of tracks rather than a cohesive whole, but Kempner’s personal stamp on all the songs manages to tie everything together. In a statement, Kempner said of the album “It’s about me, but it’s also about me in relation to others… After hiding for so long—staying inside and hiding your life and hiding yourself from the world—I was ready. I think I flipped.” It’s a deeply confessional record, one on which Kempner pulls no punches, even with self-blame, singing on “My Evil” “I’ve become the person I’d wanna punch in the face If they ever treated you this way.”
For all that Eye On The Bat captures stories of shattering, the music never gets bogged down with bitterness nor is it a brooding album in any way. It was recorded with multi-instrumentalist Larz Brogan, who Kempner has been playing with since their DIY days, and who they say pushed them to be experimental and vulnerable in the studio. Kempner and Brogan, who Kempner calls “their platonic life partner” wanted to capture Palehoud’s live sound, and while the record doesn’t sound overproduced, it is far more layered than that statement might belie. It was recorded “in brief stints” at Flying Cloud Recordings in the Catskills last year and co-produced by Kempner and Sam Owens.
El Kempner of Palehound (photo by Tonje Thilesen)
Since Palehound’s debut album Dry Food back in 2015, Kempner has been carving out a place for their songwriting and guitar skills, and now with a break-up album under their belt, their storytelling has reached new levels. Palehound seems poised for bigger things (some opening slots for boygenius in September are sure to introduce them to new audiences) and they seem ready: as stated on their Bandcamp, “if you made it through that, you’ll handle whatever comes next.”
Eye On The Bat is out now via Polyvinyl and available on Bandcamp and all major streamers.
Find Palehound at their website, on Spotify, and on tour at Bowery Ballroom on October 19th with Empath.