Welcome to #TBT Mixtape, Billboard’s weekly series that showcases artists’ very own throwback-themed playlists exclusive to Billboard‘s Spotify account. The curated set features the artists’ favorite tracks from their youth and childhood.
This week’s spin is from Palehound. The Boston based trio — comprised of Ellen Kempner, Jesse Weiss and Larz Brogan — celebrated the release of their third full-length album Black Friday in June via Polyvinyl Record Co. (Jay Som, Vivian Girls). Co-produced by bandleader Kempner alongside producer Gabe Wax (Beirut, Soccer Mommy), the set follows 2017’s A Place I’ll Always Go and was recorded at Panoramic House in Stinson Beach, Calif.
Born in Connecticut and currently based in Boston, Kempner wrote her first song at the age of 10 and cut her teeth in a punk band in high school, before attending (and dropping out of) New York’s Sarah Lawrence College, which resulted in her debut EP (2013’s Bent Nail) and first full-length (2015’s Dry Food).
Her songwriting process typically begins with a “strong anxiety” or other “bad emotion,” she says. “I generally don’t pick up a guitar when I’m feeling super happy.” True to form, the lo-fi set — mainly tracked live — touches on themes of survival, friendship, self-love and identity, including standouts such as “Aaron,” a romantic ode written for her partner who was transitioning. “It’s about the past year of him coming out and me helping him through that,” she says. On “Killer,” she imagines becoming a vigilante to eliminate a friend’s abuser. “It came from being so fed up with people who feel like they can take advantage of others sexually or physically or emotionally to get ahead or get what they want and just wanting to destroy that culture.”
To further toast the Black Friday era, Kempner put together this week’s #TBT Mixtape to give fans a glimpse into her early musical influences, including cuts by Joni Mitchell, The Rolling Stones, 3LW and Avril Lavigne.
“These are the top 20 songs that stick out as the ones I remember being obsessed with,” she says. “Half of this playlist is stuff I learned from my dad, the other half I picked up from either Radio Disney or Now That’s What I Call Music Vol. 7.”
Music has always been her therapy. “What I want to do with my songs is to help people heal in some way, or come to some new understanding about whatever it is that they’re going through. Even if it’s just hearing a song and feeling less alone than they were before, that would mean so much to me.”
Give the playlist a spin below and check out some throwback snaps of the artist from her youthful years below. Catch Palehound supporting Big Thief’s North American tour, with dates through November.