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.
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.
If you enjoy playlists based on vibe rather than genre, then the new EP from local artist Shopjail will scratch that itch. Jumping through hip hop beats, pop-punk melodies, and electronic music, LARCENY is both a solo project and a collaborative effort, featuring many artists who are friends and inspiration to Samuel Krebs, the mind behind Shopjail.
Krebs has been a member of various Brooklyn bands including Killafün, as well as a stint in Nevva playing bass. Shopjail as a solo project rose out of lockdown, with Krebs releasing the first mixtape under the name in 2022 (PROSPER).
LARCENY starts out with “ONE EYE KOMODO,” featuring a beat provided by NYC (formerly South Florida) based producer Charmonthebeat and a verse from MC JimmyIII (who is also NYC based but hails from the Chattanooga, TN scene.) Backing the verse is a screwy, gritty dark bassy synth line. It’s almost whiplash when the second track kicks in, as “OK” is a much poppier song, with an anthemic chorus (“I just want to feel OK“) and a verse from comedy-writer and musician Booshell (Matt Buechele, who Krebs tells me is “lowkey TikTok famous,” though I’ll have to take his word for it since I don’t Tik the Tok yet).
“ACHES” feels like a mix of the first two tracks, with an upbeat verse and slowed down interstitial. The lyrics are relatable (“these old bones they don’t jangle like they used to… they just ache now when I awake“) and are drawn from poet Matt Stromberg, of whom Krebs says “he’s a poet from where I’m from in Pittsburgh. He put out some work recently, and I was immediately drawn to the words in “ACHES.” I could talk about that at great length. He gave me permission to write a song about it, and that’s where “ACHES” kinda came from.”
The EP then takes a turn into a gentler sound, with the ballad-esque “2LATE.” There’s a late-90’s/early 00’s feel here. Local singer CHARMAINIA (aka Charmaine, who also plays drums in Nevva and Cult of Chunk) is featured on this track, and her strong vocals make for a compelling duet. After an instrumental with vocal samples (“EGO DEATH”), “PROBLEM” is another anthemic song, although darker in tone than “OK.” “PARTY’S OVER” is a dancey bop and a fitting ending track.
It sounds like Krebs had a lot of fun making LARCENY, which was mixed and mastered by Owen Traynor of Hazing Over. Krebs said he “loved what they were doing with the engineering on their own stuff. I wanted the pop tracks I was making to get that harder edge that I wasn’t getting from other pop/hip-hop producers & engineers I was meeting with.” The album is self-released, and while Shopjail doesn’t have any shows upcoming, you can check out a live show demo here on Vimeo (Krebs is a cinematographer, and shot the “To Us” video for CHARMAINIA, which we loved at FTA.)
TEKE::TEKE are a band that contains multitudes, from their influences, which range from psychedelic rock to surf to garage to Japanese folk, to their own melding of modern and vintage sound, to their Canadian and Japanese identities. Each of the seven members of the Montreal-based group are also multi-instrumentalists, with the credits for the album reading like an orchestra: Maya Kuroki (vocals and guitar), Sei Nakauchi Pelletier (guitar, synth, percussion, vocals), Hidetaka Yoneyama (guitar, vocals), Yuki Isami (flute, shinobue, taisho koto, synth, vocals), Etienne Lebel (trombone, gaida, percussion, vocals), Mishka Stein (bass, synth, percussion, guitar, vocals), and Ian Lettre (drums, percussion, synth, piano, vocals). Yet never on their newest album Hagata do they seem to get lost or mixed-up, rather charting their own course through a heady stew of genres to emerge with something stronger. Indeed, Kuroki says of the album’s title: “Hagata is a very deep word, something present but also something leftover from someone or something no longer there. It’s like waking up from a dream, or being connected to the other side of something.”
The melding of immediacy and dreamlike is a perfect way to describe the overall sound of Hagata. Much of it feels very nostalgic, with 60’s and 70’s pop and psych tones to the guitars and woodwinds, all while Kuroki’s vocal delivery twists and turns, a playful growl here and a soulful melody there. Yet there is a punchy quality to most of the songs and their production, and never does the album get dragged down by looking backwards.
Hagata starts off strong with lead track and lead single “Garakuta,” one of my top songs of the year so far. A psychedelic march with a driving flute lead and intense vocal delivery, it sets the stage for the rest of the album, drawing the listener into the trippy work of TEKE::TEKE with an immediate bang. Kuroki’s words (presented in this article through a provided English translation) speak of the heaps of trash people have left on this planet, seemingly from the point of view of the trash: “This flower is made from plastic, that snow from polystyrene / that hill in the distance is a mountain of cellphones… these are voices of waste that cannot return into the ground / our day will come.”
The second single is also the second track, and “Gotoku Lemon” (“Lemon Enlightenment”) is groovy and funky with interweaving guitar and flute melodies, while Kuroki plays the part of some sort of snake-oil/lemon seller, cajoling us to “everyone come closer! / divine effect, immediate remedy for all diseases! / try these lemons, try them! / try these magic lemons that wake you up with just one drop!” The accompanying animated collage video was created by Kuroki and Pelletier.
Hagata doesn’t drop off at all after these first two singles, with a strong lineup of tracks throughout. Highlights of the album are “Onaji Heya” with its slinky guitar riffs and thumping drumbeat, “Doppelganger,” the third single that features a cinematic vintage feel, and “Setagaya Koya,” which moves through an interesting arrangement and rhythmic experimentation. The longest track is the seven minute epic “Kaikijyu,” with a slow build akin to sinking down into the ocean; indeed the lyrics speak of the sea but also move through surreal imagery:
“In the pouring rain, a car stops in the backstreet
Out comes a never-ending stream of men in identical raincoats
Coming in from the back door, instantly filling up my house
Losing my space, I dive into a giant mirror
Inside is a thick and revitalizing deep ocean
Like moving kaleidoscopic and colorful lights,
Like the striking of an empty clock, there is this beautiful sound
Inconspicuously, I turn into a whale
Under the day moon, spreading my fins like wings,
I rush onto the sea with great speed.”
The production quality on Hagata is richly blended, with no part of their layered sound lost. The album was recorded and mixed by Daniel Schlett at The Outlier Inn Studio in Mountain Dale, NY; Schlett also works out of Brooklyn, but the band chose the countryside, and credit the setting (and studio owner Josh Druckman’s vegetables) with contributing to the recording, with Pelletier saying “we wanted to explore the TEKE::TEKE world further, to enrich all the senses, and feeling that comfort made a real difference.”
TEKE::TEKE aren’t only good in the studio, however—they are a compelling live act. FTA caught them live last year at Public Records, and I also had the pleasure of seeing them open for Unwound at Irving Plaza this March, where they put on a vibrant, energetic show. I highly recommend checking them out if they come through your city.
Hagata is out now via Kill Rock Stars and available on all major streamers.
No longer the young indie darlings of the 2010’s, Beach Fossils have stood the test of time and emerged thirteen years after their debut album as stalwarts of the scene, perfecting their dream pop sound. Their newest LP Bunny shows frontman Dustin Payseur honing his craft to a fine point. According to Payseur, Bunny “represents strength through vulnerability.” He notes “when I wrote the first record, there were no choruses; it was instrumental guitar parts in between verses. This is the first record where I’ve consciously thought about writing a chorus.”
There is indeed a lot of growth on this record, not only in sound but in theme, with topics ranging from friendships moving on to becoming a father. Still, there is a lot of searching, or at least reflections on moments of feeling lost. Payseur might be grown up but he isn’t settled down, still hitting up house parties (“Dare Me”) and doing hungover morning bike rides (“Don’t Fade Away”).
Lead track “Sleeping On My Own” gets things started with the jangly guitar and a catchy vocal melody; by the time the song hits the chorus it feels suddenly expansive, like arms spread wide presenting the album. This gives way to the dreamy “Run To The Moon,” which chronicles Payseur’s feelings on the arrival of his daughter, and “having absolute freedom, the fear of losing it, but then tapping into myself in a way that felt more real.” There certainly seems to be a lot of happiness reflected in the pastoral music video as band members Tommy Davidson (guitars), Jack Doyle Smith (bass), and Anton Hochheim (drums) frolic in the fields.
Their second single “Dare Me” is as Payseur says “about conflict, friendship and the intoxication of new love. Willing to let yourself be stupid, vulnerable, pissed off and forgiving” Those emotions are certainly all mixed up into the song: “you said if you’d get yourself together you’d be alright / but nothing feels better than wasting time / I’ll be your / contender / if we can live forever / caught in this / landslide / are we’re gonna be running till the end of our lives?“
Other highlights include “Anything is Anything” (which gave me a sense memory of listening to Blur’s “She’s So High” although that’s maybe just me), “Seconds,” a track that follows their old classic formula of verses interspersed with instrumentals, with gorgeous vocal harmonies, and “Numb,” a bass forward track with swirling guitars that evoke a summer night.
Payseur recorded and produced the album himself, with mixing from Lars Stalfors, and the mix is perfectly attuned to what Beach Fossils fans expect—guitar-focused dream-pop with a solid underpinning, layered over with Payseur’s strong yet lilting voice. Overall Bunny is an album of a band doing what they do best while not resting on their laurels.
Bunny is out now on Bayonet Records (the independent label Payseur co-founded in 2014).
If you find yourself asking how much of the buzz around Panchiko is the legend of their re-discovery and comeback and how much is genuine musical appreciation, then seeing them live provides a great answer to the question. The crowd at Le Poisson Rouge on Tuesday was excited and eager, and skewing younger than one might expect, all clamoring to see a group of guys who recorded their infamous lost-then-found EP D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L before many of these fans were even born. Such is the power of music, and the power of the Internet.
The first openers LSD and The Search For God hail from San Francisco, and make dreamy, psychy shoegaze music. The five piece group were a good choice to start the night off, keeping the crowd’s attention with a lot of wobbly, phasey guitar and a very solid rhythm section. The vocals didn’t seem to draw much attention away from the instrumental interludes, rather weaving into the entire soundscape. I found myself a big fan of their guitar tones and their sound overall.
Horse Jumper of Love provided the second act, and mellowed things out a bit, turning their own shoegaze and indie sounds into slowcore territory. The Boston-based three piece played with dynamic changes, but didn’t lose the crowd’s interest in the quieter parts. The songs that utilized these quiet-loud and start-stop techniques were greatly enhanced by some excellent drumming.
Panchiko are obviously enjoying their newfound fame. They emerged on the stage to a triumphantly cheeky walk-on song and were greeted with rapturous cheers before launching into “Stuck,” a track from their Ferric Oxide demos compilation. Everyone was on point—original members Owain Davies on guitar and vocals, Andy Wright on guitar and keys, and Shaun Ferreday on bass, with new guitarist Robert Harris and drummer John Schofield—and the venue sound was perfectly mixed. Having another guitarist really thickens the sound of the band, and their indie-shoegaze-math rock mix was almost too big for the mid-sized venue.
Panchiko at LPR (photo by Kate Hoos)
Throughout the 15 song set they mixed in material from the D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L and Kicking Cars EPs, Ferric Oxide and their new album Failed At Math(s) (which we covered here.) Highlights of the set for me were “Stabilisers For Big Boys,” “Laputa,” “Gwen Everest,” and the killer single “Until I Know.” Davies’ voice is already compelling on recorded material but absolutely shines on stage, stretching out into melismatic moments that soared. All the guitar riffs sounded amazing as well, with Wright once jokingly pointing out his own great guitar solo.
Spirits were high both on stage and in the room, and the crowd seemed to be familiar with all of the material, turning songs like “D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L” into singalongs. It went a long way toward proving that the appeal of Panchiko is not just the novelty of their internet fame, or the quirkiness of the disc rot that had taken over the first CD that was uncovered—these are damn good songs. Still, I can’t help but wonder if it’s a surreal feeling for Panchiko to have music they wrote as teenagers suddenly become so popular that over twenty years later other teenagers are singing every word, or if that feeling will ever wear off.
Everyone I spoke to had heard of the band through posts on the Internet. One twenty-something fan told me he lived “in the woods” and only came to the city a couple times per year; he had judged Panchiko to be worth this effort. Before the band even started playing, fans up front were handing over albums to be signed as the stage was set, to which the band members happily obliged. After the show there was a crowd of people waiting for more autographs, and eager fans yelling for stage crew to throw them setlists and such, with a fervent enthusiasm usually seen at performances of larger pop artists. It was honestly charming. (Anyone who finds themselves complaining about “kids these days” should take a look back at themselves as a teen.)
Panchiko at LPR (photo by Kate Hoos)
Most local shows I go to these days are at bars, and when I attend larger venues it tends to be for older bands with many older fans. This was the first all ages show I’ve been to in a while that was really all ages. Instead of making me feel old (your humble reviewer is 40) I found it uplifting. Sometimes it’s nice to see that good music and the appreciation of it is timeless. Much like Panchiko’s rediscovered music, the scene survives.
(Shoutout to the fan who brought the Rei Ayanami plush and was waving her around like a lightstick! The intersection of Panchiko—who used a panel from Mint na Bokura as an album cover and reference Laputa—and anime nerds is real.)
(Also I’d like to remind fans of all ages that yes, you still tip the bartender on sodas.)
Scroll down for setlist, pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
Setlist: Stuck, Stabilisers For Big Boys, Number 8, Sodium Chloride, Think That’s Too Wise, Cut, Untitled, Until I Know, Failed At Maths, NeilSSong, Laputa, Gwen Everest, All They Wanted, D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L, Kicking Cars