Bachelor: Doomin' Sun (Polyvinyl) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, May 20th, 2024  


Doomin’ Sun


May 27, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Bachelor is a new collaboration from two of indie’s most expressive and acclaimed songwriters of recent years: Melina Duterte of Jay Som and Ellen Kempner of Palehound. Fans could likely already see that this was a match made in heaven. After all, there’s something special about collaborative projects. The meeting of diverse creative instincts can bring out newfound angles to an artist’s music and push stylistic boundaries in unexpected directions. But even among the company of vaunted songwriting partnerships, Duterte and Kempner have something unique—the thriving friendship that carries their creative chemistry. Together, that friendship elevates Bachelor and their debut, Doomin’ Sun, from just the newest project from rising indie heavyweights to something truly special.

Bachelor, in some respects, comes in the lineage of other high profile indie collaborations, such as last year’s BUMPER (Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner and Crying’s Ryan Galloway) and Better Oblivion Community Center (Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst). Duterte herself has also contributed to the trend, joining her friend Justus Proffit for an EP in 2018 and her partner, Chastity Belt bassist Annie Truscott, for an EP earlier this year under the name Routine.

Yet, whereas in a collaboration like Better Oblivion Community Center a part of the attraction is seeing how two different artists fit together, Bachelor holds less back in surprise. Kempner and Duterte act almost as stylistic mirrors, meshing their styles together instantly and seamlessly. It’s like the pair have been writing together for years. Palehound’s winding wiry guitar and falsetto delivery take the lead on “Sand Angel” and the country twang of “Sick of Spiraling.” Meanwhile, “Went Out Without You” and “Moon” bear the traces of Jay Som’s hazy production style and echoing melodies from the opening notes. Together the pair strikes on an effortless synthesis of styles, bolstered by effortless mutual chemistry.

The record in some ways feels less weighty and considered than the pair’s solo work, perhaps as a result of the spontaneous recording sessions. After all, the record was written and recorded on the fly in less than two weeks as the pair shared a rental in Topanga, California. Little moments like the studio banter that opens “Anything At All” (“Today is vocal day, not horny day!”) have the same energy as a grade school group project where you and your best friend hang out all day and get nothing done.

But for Bachelor, the opposite was clearly true. In fact, the band sounds uninhibited, willing to take on explosive gnarled indie rock, stark balladry, eerie ambient passages, and willowy stripped-back acoustic numbers. This carefree approach makes for some moments of real cathartic intensity as the pair truly let loose. The Pixies pastiche the pair deploys on “Stay in the Car” reaches an apex of distorted guitar theatrics, only for the band to top the track’s wild instrumentation a few songs later with the visceral climax of “Anything At All.” At least in terms of uninhibited driving indie rock, the pair’s synthesis of styles has never sounded stronger.

Equally though, the easy openness that forms the basis of the record also unearths moments of honest pain from the pair as the album plays on. “Spin” and “Doomin’ Sun” point towards climate anxiety with a dark mordant wit (“We gave our bodies to the birds and bees/And now they’re falling from the sky/In threes”). Elsewhere the pair tells eminently relatable stories of anxious queer introversion on “Went Out Without You” (“I went out without you…Tried to make new friends but/I was too embarrassed/When I showed up there alone”) and mounting mental health struggles on “Sick of Spiraling.” But these darker moments only add to the overwhelming sense of catharsis that’s behind this record, an almost therapeutic unburdening made with the close support of friends.

Melina Duterte and Ellen Kempner already had no shortage of acclaim leading up to Bachelor’s inception. What they’ve accomplished with Doomin’ Sun is thus made all the more impressive, offering up a work that lives up to the pair’s best separate efforts and easily marries their different approaches to indie rock. Sometimes songwriting duos are famous as much for their conflict as for their collaboration. That is not the case with Bachelor, as Duterte and Kempner’s friendship and palpable creative chemistry underpin some of their strongest work to date. (

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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