Sometime within the past year, Palehound’s Ellen Kempner and Jay Som’s Melina Duterte decided to work together. It wasn’t anything crazy, just a DIY collaborative project to see what would come out of it. The ethos was to keep it simple and keep it fun. The result is Doomin’ Sun, one of the most amenable, engaging, and enjoyable albums of the year.
It’s the little things on Doomin’ Sun that mean the most: not minding getting kicked by your partner at night on ‘Went Out Without You’, the endless scroll on ‘Sick of Spiraling’, sleeping on the other side of the bed on ‘Moon’. Most of the ruminations here are either tangentially or directly romantic, but they never take the form of grand sweeping gestures or head-over-heels exhalations. It’s just stupid everyday love, the kind that’s important and makes life a little bit better.
A quick note: just because artists are using electric guitars doesn’t mean they are channelling the aesthetics or artistry of a different era. The electric guitar is a fantastically malleable instrument, one that can explore vast sonic textures without directly referencing or paying homage to some other time. The total sum of Doomin’ Sun is firmly rooted in the present, actively looking forward instead of harkening back to an era where guitar music was more prevalent in the mainstream. So if you want to think that Bachelor sounds like a ’90s band, you have that ability, but you would also be missing the point.
The vocal interplay between Kempner’s harried howl and Duterte’s gentle bray is the secret sauce that makes Bachelor so fascinating. Kempner can employ a droll drawling vocal line on ‘Stay in the Car’ that is immediately followed by a warm, lilting harmony from Duterte. It happens all over Doomin’ Sun, and every time it shows up there’s an added weight to whatever words had just been accentuated.
The overwhelming sense I get on Doomin’ Sun is that Kempner and Duterte are quite simply friends who enjoyed each other’s music and thought it would be fun to make an album of their own. There’s a certain low-stakes, easy-going attitude that permeates throughout the album, whether it’s the goofy bit of banter at the end of ‘Spin Out’ or the loose buzz of ‘Anything at All’. Obviously, the duo take their music seriously, but not to the extent that joy and convivial atmospheres are sacrificed, even during the slower and more contemplative numbers.
Doomin’ Sun isn’t a record meant to set the world on fire. It’s a record whose focus is on taking extra care in the more minute details. Sometimes that’s lyrical, sometimes it’s musical, but it’s always prevalent. ‘Aurora’ could have just been a simple piano ballad, but the swirl of psychedelic sound effects makes it a fully engrossing experience rather than just a sad song about homesickness.
Extra touches and flourishes are always around, but on the album’s title track, we get a stripped-down finale. The track is apocalyptic, but also romantic and tender, finding freedom in a blood-red sky. As Kempner and Duterte intone over an acoustic guitar, the magic that comes from two incredibly talented singer/musicians/writers working in tandem becomes clear. Bachelor likely won’t replace either person’s day job, but it would be cruel to keep this as a one-off project, especially when the duo’s chemistry is so potent and palpable.