Allston-bred Palehound provides substance to the female-driven DIY scene. Finding their home on Northeastern University-born label Exploding In Sound Records, they’ve been making moody, ambient indie fused with girl power for two years now. On their latest album, Dry Food, Palehound attempts to navigate the messiness of growing up and moving on. Though it accomplishes this, announcing itself as a landmark in Palehound’s discography, the album also feels too comfortable. They give a taste of something new, only to end up serving a spoonful of familiar.

Upon first listen, Dry Food is somewhat uneventful. There’s a certain plainness to the grunge-informed acoustic sound, especially given today’s burgeoning Boston scene. But Palehound truly captivates through the attention to detail that separates them from the herd. Ellen Kempner’s crisp vocals pair with ambient noise-rock that diverts into a harder sound at times.

In fact, the album’s structure is one of its most celebratory factors. When listened to from start to finish, the natural flow of the album is aided by the connectivity found in the songs. The end of one fades flawlessly into the next, carrying over the tone and mood. This proves that Palehound is capable of taking on large-scale ideas – it’s in the minutiae where it falters.  

Breaking from the melancholic acoustic sound that Palehound is best known for, the album bursts open with “Molly.” It’s fast, it’s distorted, it’s everything Palehound is not. In fact, it sounds more like EIS alumnus  Speedy Ortiz. Roommates have been known to borrow clothes or food, so with Speedy vocalist Sadie Dupuis being the roommate of Kempner, perhaps there was a bit of familial crossover.

The songs soldier on in lessening degrees of intensity and dynamics, creating a smooth downward slope . The titular track falls in the middle of the album, and is an aural incarnation of “chill.” “You made beauty a monster to me,” Kempner repeats tenderly over a labored, waltz beat. Honest and raw, “Dry Food” is more about human nature than dog sustenance.

But what sets Dry Food back from being an exceptional album, is its comfort. It’s an album built from familiar sounds. Palehound certainly excels in their genre, but after dipping their toes in fresher water with “Molly,” Palehound leaves listeners wanting more. Still, Dry Food is a solid statement album, acting as an identifier for the essence of Palehound  – it may even become their Crooked Rain But as Dry Food closes with the mellow and familiar “Seekonk,” listeners are left deprived.

Album Review: Palehound - Dry Food
  • Brilliantly structured
  • The sonic definition of "chill"
  • Too comfortable with familiar sound
  • Not adventurous enough

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