Ellen Kempner is the vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter for the Boston-based indie rock trio Palehound. Building on the promise of their critically-acclaimed 2015 album Dry Food, and 2017’s A Place I’ll Always Go, Black Friday examines the intricacies of friendship and partnership, handling the subject with a level of attention rarely found in pop songs. Black Friday will be released June 7 on Polyvinyl Record co.
In place of a more traditional year-end best-of list, Talkhouse has asked some of our favorite artists to choose their favorite album of 2018 and tell us all about it.
—The Talkhouse Team
I had to make a year end list for somewhere else, and I was thinking, “What was my number one album?” I don’t usually have number ones for the year, because there’s always so much good shit that comes out—and there was a ton of great shit that came out this year—but Whack World by Tierra Whack completely blew everything away for me. I had never heard anything like it, or seen an album be treated the way that she treated it.
I was in LA with my partner’s family the first time I heard it; a friend of mine out there was like, “Have you heard Tierra Whack?” and I was like, “No!” It was kind of funny listening to that album for the first time in LA because I don’t spend very much time out there, but now my memories with that album are, like, driving in the sunshine and listening to it. I think that probably has a lot to do with why I love it too—it has a really positive connotation of being in a sunny place. I live in Boston, and it’s not sunny here.
Every song is a minute long, and the whole album is only 15 minutes long; that alone is so cool. She managed to do a bunch of things that I feel like were really hard to pull off in a cool way. The songs don’t feel like a minute at all because so much happens. Every song is so good and they all serve such a different purpose on the album, but I think my favorite is “Hookers.” It just makes me dance, which is hard— I don’t usually like dancing. It’s so genius that she was able to create this world in just fifteen minutes, and the way that she was able to cater to the reality of Instagram culture is really crazy to me. Usually Instagram freaks me out, but the fact that she made an album where each song had its own video that could fit onto Instagram is completely insane.
I keep saying it’s really crazy—I feel like my lack of words to describe how I feel about this album says it all. I’ve spent so much time this year talking about this album. It was the only thing I could listen to for, like, weeks. That happens every time I listen to a new album, and sometimes I burn it out, but this album still is not burnt out for me at all. I’m still able to put it on and be thrilled that I’m listening to it.
I still haven’t seen her live, and I’m dying to. That’s the only bad thing that happened in 2018, that I didn’t get to see her live. Actually, no—so many bad things happened this year. But as far as Tierra Whack is concerned, it’s the only bad thing.
As told to Annie Fell.