Given the millions of solo songwriters out there, it’s a pretty tall task to feel distinct these days, but Ellen Kempner (aka Palehound) is able to pull it off on her debut full length, Dry Food. While it fits into the same indie rock/folk style as many other artists, Kempner’s versatility as a guitarist and songwriter makes it feel like something unique, as she nimbly goes from up-tempo lo-fi rock songs with distorted guitar blasts to heartfelt folk with gentle strumming.
While Kempner’s guitar playing is flashy, her vocals and lyrics are more understated, with introspective observations sung in a near deadpan tone. Yet Kempner is still capable of expressing a lot of emotion with her voice, like on the quiet title track where she sings “I’m over it,” a simple lyric that feels like it means a lot when she sings it. Overall, Dry Food is one of my favorite debuts of the year, and it showcases a young artist who is forging her own path.