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June marks LGBTQ+ pride month, and Palehound’s Ellen Kempner, for one, is tired of writing love songs to imaginary men.
As the queer Boston indie artist prepares for the release of her sophomore album, A Place I’ll Always Go, out Friday (June 16) via Polyvinyl, she’s coming clean about the actual gender of her partners — no more beating around the heteronormative bush. The revamped tunes pair amazingly well with her Pride playlist on Spotify.
“Lately queer representation in my songs has been centered around the pronouns I use,” Kempner says. “Before I was out I would always use he/him pronouns to describe love interests when none of those actual people used those pronouns. On this record I feel like I’ve opened up by using partners’ real pronouns, there’s a lot of she/her songs and one they/them. No more lyin’ about non-existent he/hims!”
Kempner debuts the collection of songs on Friday’s release day with a release party at the newly-opened Sonia in Cambridge. The occasion marks her first gig in the Central Square venue since its transformation from T.T. The Bear’s Place and her last local show before kicking up dirt on tour with Waxahatchee in August (which hits Royale August 19).
While most people don’t consider Allston to be a “place they’ll always go,” Kempner did the typical musician pilgrimage in reverse, moving from New York City to Allston three years ago. Since then, she’s singled out her favorite joints around town, namely b fresh, which she used as inspiration for the grocery store for the A Place I’ll Always Go cover artwork.
“Well the album cover is a grocery store and that idea is based off of b fresh in Allston which is where I go a lot to do my food shopping, so that’s one,” Kempner says when asked about the album’s ties to Boston and its neighborhoods. “Some others in Boston are Allston Diner, Refuge Cafe, Mr. Music, Million Year Picnic, and Mike’s Monster Guitar. Those are all places that I’ve frequented a lot since moving here.”
More proof of her quasi-assimilation to the area appears when she name-drops Dunks in “If You Met Her” and references working in a “warehouse full of books” in “Turning 21,” a nod to her current stint working in the Harvard bookstore warehouse. But beyond the indelibly awesome Boston nuggets scattered throughout A Place I’ll Always Go, Kempner gently peels back layers of grief and acceptance on all 10 tracks, from mourning the loss of both her grandmother and friend in the same year, to embracing and accepting love and her sexuality, pronouns and all.
It’s that very muted maturity that sifts the trio from every other sad indie group bemoaning their slew of millennial woes. That fact that she calls Boston her stomping ground is just a bonus.