3 Acts To See This Week: Palehound, The Album Leaf, and Sevdaliza

Intimate indie rock on Thursday at Bottom of the Hill, transcendental post-rock Friday at Swedish-American Hall, and jazzed-out R&B on Saturday, also at Swedish-American.

Palehound. Shervin Lainez

Indie rock


7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 22, at Bottom of the Hill. $14; bottomofthehill.com

After dropping out of college and moving to Boston to jump-start her career, Palehound’s frontwoman Ellen Kempner saw her life change rapidly in ways she never expected. 2015 saw the release of Palehound’s excellent debut album Dry Food, which led to the group being signed to well-known indie-rock label Polyvinyl Records. It was only after Dry Food’s release that Kempner underwent the profound life experiences that would shape the themes of her next album, including the deaths of loved ones, adult relationships, and anxiety. Palehound’s sophomore release, A Place I’ll Always Go, chronicles a transition into adulthood in a way that’s decidedly more mature — both lyrically and structurally — than Dry Food. There are strong influences of ’90s alt-rock bands like Pavement or Built to Spill, as the guitar arrangement captures the perfect mix of melancholy moodiness and off-kilter rock-out moments that elevated those bands to classic status. Kempner sings deeply intimate lyrics with as much vulnerability in her voice as Elliott Smith, giving listeners the impression she’s sharing a side of her that’s not revealed very often.


The Album Leaf. Photo by Bil Zellman


The Album Leaf

8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 23, at Swedish American Hall. $20; swedishamericanhall.com

Jimmy LaValle, the brainchild behind The Album Leaf, is an expert at manipulating your emotions in under five minutes. Beginning as a side project in his bedroom nearly two decades ago, LaValle has grown his once-solo endeavor into a full-fledged band, his tender arrangements increasing in complexity and feeling. LaValle’s background in post-rock prior to forming The Album Leaf gave him the preparation needed in order to craft short, instrumental tracks filled to the brim with cathartic joy. The best example of The Album Leaf’s raw emotional prowess can be heard on its standout 2004 Sub Pop release, In a Safe Place. Recorded in fellow post-rock titans Sigur Rós’ Icelandic studio, In a Safe Place sounds like the soundtrack to your own inspirational movie, complete with moments of beauty that could make the grimmest souls stop and smile. The Album Leaf’s latest release, Between Waves, is another evolution in LaValle’s craftsmanship. It contains fewer moments of transcendental beauty, opting for more upbeat rhythms and emphasis on vocals. The emotional core that made The Album Leaf’s earlier releases memorable is still present on Waves, resulting in the group’s boldest and fullest-sounding record yet. 

Sevdaliza. Photo by Bethany Vargas



8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, at Swedish American Hall. $20; swedishamericanhall.com

Fluent in five languages, Iranian-Dutch vocalist Sevdaliza already has the qualifications needed in order to become an international sensation. Once a skilled basketball player during her college years, Sevdaliza made her leap into music in 2014 with her debut single “Backseat Love,” a hypnotic, bass-thumping track that made waves on music blogs upon its release. The next year saw two separate EPs, The Suspended Kid and Children of Silk, which introduced listeners to Sevdaliza’s brand of jazzed-out R&B complete with trapped-out drum sequences, similar to fellow alternative-R&B star FKA Twigs. 2017 proved to be a watershed year for Sevdaliza, releasing her excellent debut studio album ISON. The album expands upon the moody soundscapes heard in her first two EPs with more influences from trip-hop artists like Portishead. Standout track “Bluecid” begins with Sevdaliza’s spiderweb-thin vocals wrapped around a soft, eerie piano before exploding into an overwhelming flurry of distorted synths and pounding beats, while the line “And I could only have you in my dreams / Oh, so it seems, so it seems,” repeats in the background. Each song opens a different layer of Sevdaliza’s identity, but as personal and confessional as the lyrics get, she never reveals too much, leaving a veil between herself and the listener.


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