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Highlight tracks from Palehound's new album


The new album by indie band Palehound, "Eye On The Bat," is a visceral and deeply personal journey, says NPR music contributor Marissa Lorusso. She sees this latest album as a move toward honest reflection and says it's their most cohesive record to date.


MARISSA LORUSSO, BYLINE: Palehound is the indie rock project of a singer and songwriter named El Kempner. They make music that I think can be surprisingly vulnerable and emotional. And this latest record is called "Eye On The Bat."


LORUSSO: And it came from a couple kind of intertwined crises in Kempner's life. So in early 2020, they had just started touring behind Palehound's last album. They had this huge tour booked across the country. And then, of course, they had to cancel the entire thing because of the pandemic. And then at the same time, they went through a breakup after a very serious long-term relationship. And they were able to channel those experiences into this really wonderful album, which kind of captures what it feels like to try to push through when it feels like maybe your entire world is about to collapse.


PALEHOUND: (Singing) I am living life like writing a first draft, 'cause there is nothing to it if I can't edit the past. And even if I could, it would kill me to look back. No, I don't want to see the other path.

LORUSSO: "Independence Day" is probably my favorite track from the album. It is a track that really directly addresses the breakup that Kempner went through. What I love about this song is that it is about losing a connection with someone, but it's also about how that new sense of independence can help you look forward. It's a really propulsive, catchy song, and I feel like it captures that feeling of kind of being caught between the past and the future.


PALEHOUND: (Singing) I didn't notice I had blood on my hands till it dried and flaked off, staining all our clothes.

LORUSSO: So one thing that really stands out about the lyrics on this record is how visceral they are. There are so many descriptions of bodily sensations on this record. Some of the songs talk about a stomach doing backflips, for example, or having a cold feeling in your throat. There are two different songs that talk about having bloody hands. But that theme really comes through on this song, "My Evil."


PALEHOUND: (Singing) It's my evil.

LORUSSO: Kempner is singing about being the, quote-unquote, "bad guy" in a breakup, and they really personify those feelings as this entity that they say they make love with and share their skull with. I think often when songwriters are covering a difficult time or really big feelings, they sometimes can over-intellectualize that experience. But what I love about these songs is that Kempner really makes you feel what they are feeling. It's like they bring you back into all of these bodily feelings, and so there's no place to hide from how intense these experiences are.


PALEHOUND: (Singing) I didn't want to see that bloody hand on your stomach that night.

LORUSSO: In a song like "The Clutch," for example, there's all of this mounting tension that is, like, building and building. And then in the middle of the song, it all breaks open with this big, glorious guitar solo.


LORUSSO: And the way that Kempner plays guitar can inject a level of fun and almost playfulness into their sound. And I think that's especially key when the lyrics can cover some otherwise heavy topics, like they do on "Eye On The Bat." You can really hear Kempner on this record working to kind of find that balance throughout these songs, and it really pays off.


PALEHOUND: (Singing) But you didn't need my help.

DETROW: That was NPR music contributor Marissa Lorusso. Palehound's latest album, "Eye On The Bat," is out now. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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