Finding a songwriting voice takes time - and then there's the process of pinpointing the best way to send that voice hurtling through speakers. Palehound's Ellen Kempner has long had the words: scathing and evocative, certain even when swimming in an ocean of doubt. And with every live show, she's finding surer and surer footing as the central force in a band that marries rock muscle to bedroom folk's wiry vulnerability.
At an NPR Music showcase recorded live at New York City's (Le) Poisson Rouge in the fall of 2015, Kempner opened with a quick confession — "I'm really nervous" — before channeling those nerves into raw, powerful songs, accompanied by bassist Davood Khoshtinat and drummer Jesse Weiss. That rawness can take several forms, from the kiss-off brutality of "Molly" to the gnarled slow burn of "Seekonk" and "Dry Food," the title track from Palehound's 2015 album. But it doesn't detract from songs that hit hard at any speed.—STEPHEN THOMPSON