Under Review: Pepper Rabbit – Red Velvet Snow Ball

I’m at a bit of an advantage when it comes to understanding Pepper Rabbit’s new album, Red Velvet Snow Ball. Earlier this year, the New Orleans born/Los Angeles bred group stopped by my radio show for a performance and interview session. This was shortly after the release of their debut, Beauregard, an album that showed off the band’s lush songwriting and extreme versatility when it comes to playing dozens of instruments. In talking with Xander Singh and Luc Laurent, the band’s core members, they mentioned that they had already finished recording Beauregard’s follow-up, and that it would feature a much different sound. That sound is based around a device that Singh and Laurent brought to our session: the Pocket Piano, a miniature synthesizer that can produce a number of whimsically spry blurts and gurgles. While Red Velvet Snow Ball doesn’t completely discard the warm acoustics of Beauregard, it does mark a rich new direction for this ambitious band.

The Pocket Piano’s presence is heard immediately, underscoring (and eventually overtaking) opener “Lake House.” There’s a kind of ramshackle charm about Red Velvet Snowball that, though it makes Pepper Rabbit come across as slightly less surefooted than before, is an indelible part of the new direction. A blend of optimism and scolding is heard in the lyrics of “Rose Mary Stretch,” as graduates are at once encouraged to “throw up [their] caps and gowns” and warned that they’ll “never get out of this town.” That dichotomy is nothing new to Pepper Rabbit, though it goes to show that they’re more than just a sentimental pop band. Mid-album standouts like “Family Planning” and the delightfully titled (yet rather pensive) “The Annexation Of Puerto Rico” are reassuring promises that Pepper Rabbit haven’t abandoned their simple melodic leanings. Singh and Laurent are quite skillful at crafting atmospheres and hooks, and while Red Velvet Snow Ball is best digested as a whole, it stands as an impressive work.

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~ by E. on August 12, 2011.

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