Melina Duterte of Jay Som and Ellen Kempner of Palehound join forces as Bachelor | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Melina Duterte of Jay Som and Ellen Kempner of Palehound join forces as Bachelor


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Bands hyped as “supergroups” usually sound cool in theory but often wind up less memorable than the better-known projects of their members. By contrast, the pop rock on Bachelor’s debut, Doomin’ Sun, will stick to your brain like bubblegum on the bottom of your sneaker. Bachelor is the duo of Melina Duterte, a Los Angeles-based songwriter and producer who makes bedroom pop as Jay Som, and Ellen Kempner, who fronts Brooklyn indie-pop trio Palehound. Recorded during two weeks in January 2020, Doomin’ Sun balances 90s-style alt-rock and dreamy, down-tempo indie rock. On “Stay in the Car,” a distorted bass line and overdriven guitars burst over the chorus while Kempner sings a deadpan melody so catchy you’ll need surgery to dislodge it from your skull. Opening track “Back of my Hand” mines similar loud-quiet-loud territory, though its refrain is filled instead with layers of synths, percussive shakers, and shiny guitars. Bachelor change things up on the album’s slower tracks, such as “Moon” and “Sand Angel,” where Kempner and Duterte pair their hushed vocals atop snare drums that sound like they’re covered in loose-leaf paper. The album’s mood bounces from quiet drama to noisy angst, but from top to bottom Doomin’ Sun sounds like it was a blast to record. At the tail end of “Spin Out,” just before the bass groove of “Anything at All” starts, you can hear Duterte on a hot mike joking, “Today is vocal day, not horny day.” A stuffier group wouldn’t include such a candid moment in the final mix, but a lack of pretense is part of what makes Bachelor great.   v

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