Bent Nail is the first official offering from buzzworthy alt-pop project Palehound, and it’s fitting that these six tracks can be all at once twisting and jagged, soothing and sweet. Though leader Ellen Kempner is just nineteen, her expert re-branding of early 90s alternative sounds suggests the maturity of a musician twice her age. Recorded at DIY space The Silent Barn in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and released by beloved local label Exploding in Sound Records, Palehound’s Bent Nail EP provides an honest portrait of Kempner’s life, cleverly painted in strokes of smart, kitschy wordplay and whimsical guitars.
Like debut single “Pet Carrot,” Bent Nail maintains a warm, fuzzy bedroom vibe, as if we’re hanging with Kempner through the night’s witching hour, listening as she pours her heart out through song. “Psycho Speak” is a folk-inspired, syrupy tale of rich lovers, asshole neighbors, and inter-species games of hide-and-seek. “I beat around the same bush every time,” she gripes on “Harvest,” which remains light, fresh, and delicate, even as acoustics swell majestically in power by track’s end. The memorable riff that drives “I Get Clean” is playful, yet undeniably sharp, as instrumentals go toe-to-toe with Kempner’s words. “I’m starting my own continent,” she reveals, and we’re immediately right behind her.
Still, there’s little on Bent Nail that can quite match the subtle intensity of EP opener “Drooler,” a dreamy, slinky little number that’s dedicated to the seedy underbellies of flawed relationships. “Vandalize my body if it helps you sleep soundly,” Kempner bites, serving up chill-inducing vocal shifts amidst clanging and crashing background tension. Bent Nail reaches its satisfying conclusion with the haunting “Flytrap,” but you’ll soon be wishing these sounds could continue, softly lulling you to sleep. The EP may be quite short, and Kempner may be quite young, but Bent Nail leaves a pretty major impression.
3.5 / 5 bars