Don’t let the descriptor “coming of age” fool you. Dry Food, Ellen Kempner’s new album under the moniker PALEHOUND, isn’t some placid, quiet album on which Kempner just reads her diary over sparse instrumentation. On her first full-length, Kempner rocks the fuck out. The album’s full of twists and turns, from brutal power chords to jazzy guitar licks.
But even if Kempner doesn’t seem interested in confessional cliches, that doesn’t mean Dry Food is impersonal. Far from it — Kempner played just about every instrument on the album, and her lyrics are straight to the point.
The album’s due in early March, on the ever brilliant Heavenly Recordings just a day after her show at The Shacklewell Arms on Thursday 3 March. To help pass the time until then, we decided to ask Kempner for her favorite coming of age tracks. You can listen below and read what she has to say about each song, or check out the playlist on our Spotify.
This song holds a lot of coming of age meaning for me. Aside from the fact that it’s literally about going through life and growing up as time passes, it was one of the first songs I ever learned to play on guitar/sing. Joni’s one of my earliest favourites and influences and this song will always have strong staying power for me no matter what age I am.
I know this seems silly cuz this song actually kind of sucks BUT when I was in third grade this perfectly captured how it felt to be transitioning from kid to pre-teen. Avril, with her ties and eyeliner, was my first punk(ish) hero and hearing her sing about what it was like to be my age was huge for me at the time. Even to this day, when I can acknowledge that this song is pretty lame, I still respect the heck out of a major popstar singing about her tomboy small town roots and how much that meant to me.
I listen to this song on repeat like once a week. He perfectly captures high school in a suburban town; driving to the park because there’s nothing else to do, waking up at noon on a Sunday, waking your dad when you come in home late, getting high, etc. Flawless song.
I feel like all of Frankie Cosmos’ music is centered around the coming of age teenage girl narrative. This song in particular really hits home, it’s my favorite of hers. The line that really gets me is “Hulking, I stand beside Ally in the mirror, hulking. That’s why you like me and I don’t.” It immediately transports me back to being in fourth grade and standing next to my pretty friend in front of the mirror, feeling awkward and “hulking”. That feeling of knowing you’re a kid but becoming aware of your friends’ bodies and comparing yourself for the first time on the long road of body-conscious girlhood.
This song is brutal. Alicia sings about accidentally breaking her sister’s arm when she was six and still feeling sad about it. She compares it to the feeling of breaking peoples’ hearts now that she’s an adult. A really clever way of illustrating how the same guilts follow you throughout your life.
As a queer, this song absolutely NAILS it for me. Liv Bruce sings about holding their breath in a suit and a tie and not knowing that they could fight back against the gender binary/hetero-normative culture they were smothered by as a kid. As the song goes on they realize that it’s better to be who they are even if it means making a fool of themself. When I first heard this song I listened to the first verse over and over again in awe of how simply relatable it was.
When I was in high school this song scared the shit out of me. Its universal depiction of elementary school (gym class parachute, touching your crush’s thumb while playing 7-up in class) in the first verse hit home for me and allowed me to insert myself into the narrative. However, come the second verse when he starts talking about his childhood friends having kids later in life I would always start panicking about me and my friends growing into adults. Now I’m 21 and a girl I went to high school with is pregnant and it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.
I never grew up in Los Angeles but this song makes me feel like I did. At the end Cindy repeats “Nothing can stop me now” in between situations like riding on her skateboard and going to the beach. I don’t know if she meant for this to be a coming of age song but it reminds me of experiencing your first taste of freedom as a kid in the summer just roving around and feeling like you can go anywhere. Also the slacker-y arrangement adds even more to the liberty of laziness in the A/C after school.