Photo: Tonje Thilesen

Jay Som and Palehound Join Forces As Bachelor on the Inventive ‘Doomin’ Sun’

Bachelor is a collaboration between Palehound’s Ellen Kempner and Jay Som’s Melina Duterte. On Doomin’ Sun, they join seamlessly and skillfully.

Doomin' Sun
28 May 2021

Bachelor is a collaboration between two of the DIY scene’s most luminously raw diarists: Palehound’s Ellen Kempner and Jay Som‘s Melina Duterte. On the project’s debut album Doomin’ Sun, they join seamlessly and skillfully. Over ten tracks, they come together to make confidantes of their listeners, intertwining lyrics of desire and anxiety with layers of sonic exploration. Alternately bitter and sweet but invariably vulnerable, Doomin’ Sun is indie music at its most engaging, and Kempner and Duterte make a relatable pair.

They’re also a versatile one. Catchy, acerbic rock cuts sit comfortably beside delicate ballads, acoustic and electric textures ebbing and flowing in seductive cross-currents where no style is off-limits: hot blues licks, noisy ambience, stripped-down picking, and atmospheric billowing all lend themselves well to different moments. The album’s opener, “Back of My Hand”, begins with a few seconds of ominous electronic growling that give way quickly and cleanly for tight drums and chords, building steadily into a catchy pop meditation on yearning, unrequited celebrity adoration, and the insecurities that follow. “You date the beauty queens / … / I skip a meal / I drink some tea / I’m your biggest fan.” Following track “Sand Angel” seems to both follow perfectly and change the pace completely, sensual bliss rising like slow-motion steam (“In your arms / Grind my teeth / As you toss me turn me”). Just as suddenly after the dream ends, “Stay in the Car” swings the album back into exuberant overdrive.

And so the album continues, colorful and seemingly limitless. The wistful warmth of “Went Out Without You” comes from the simplest guitar notes, light percussion, and Kempner’s voice so soft it almost cracks. “Spin Out” grows that gentle longing into full, mournful bloom, Duterte’s soothing voice plainly poignant over a garden of synths and guitars (“You’re broken / You’ve ruined / No memory can be replaced”). The lure of a toxic relationship comes through a creeping bassline and Kempner’s nearly clenched teeth on “Anything at All” (“Stuck to her door / Like a fly in a web”) before “Moon” pairs another simple vocal-and-guitar line with crashing reverb and relationship-based tension (“Slept on your side of the bed again / Talked to the moon just to have a friend”). The country-fried rock guitars on “Sick of Spiraling” have a Beatles-esque jangle to them, backing lyrical punch after punch as fear closes in on Kempner’s narrator, anxious while walking, driving, and even existing.

Doomin’ Sun ends on notes as dire as the album’s title suggests. Eerily evocative “Aurora” and “Doomin’ Sun” are each powerful for their pensive approach to some kind of inevitable end, which comes on the album in the form of echoing strings, guitar, and unintelligible vocal remnants, making for a finale as intriguing as the album’s first introductory bursts of electronics.

It’s almost dizzying to navigate the wide array of music on Doomin’ Sun – fast, slow, sincere, sardonic – but Kempner and Duterte’s collaborative chemistry makes for a steadfast center of gravity. By the end, as the duo watch everything fall apart, it’s easy to trust in the comfort of their fatalism (“But we’ve got time and you are holding me / End of the Earth will set it free”). In the meantime, there’s Bachelor, a reminder of how exceptional songwriting and musicianship can be even in the face of apocalyptic anxiety as long it’s the right mix of artists.

RATING 9 / 10