To say that Pepper Rabbit defies convention is an understatement. The duo of Xander Singh and Luc Laurent create strange melodies that elude confining boundaries like genres or style. Part of this comes from their willingness to look beyond “the big three” (drums, bass, guitar) and dive into their toy box for other instruments to build their songs around. As the drummer, Luc Laurent keeps that member of the rhythm section going under all ten tracks of their sophomore LP, Red Velvet Snowball, but that is the only tie to conventional rock or pop. Singh fills out the rest of the sound with his reedy, yet soulful vocals, keyboards and an expansive array of musical devices.
A core of vocals, drums and keyboards create quite a foundation to build off of. The keys range from pop-synth, to contemporary piano, to harpsichord, and beyond. Woodwinds, horns, ukuleles, and even guitars come in to create a Seurat painting of sound; every small piece creates something much larger and more beautiful than itself. The end result is ten tracks of an eclectic sweetness, equal parts evocative and dreamy.
This is a sound that several other bands have been able to cultivate over the years, but Pepper Rabbit has done it and at the same time made every song incredibly catchy. The first track, “Lake House,” opens and I feel like it is a song I have always known. The next track, “Rose Mary Stretch,” make me feel like I have been inserted into an indie movie with that one life-changing event right around the corner. “The Annexation of Puerto Rico” and “In Search of Simon Birch” are two honest ballads that create up and down waves of emotion. “Tiny Fingers” brings all of that emotion full circle and marks the band’s ability to know how to close out an album – a hooky bassline and a simple rock jam with space-like diminished vocals building to a tiny audio explosion.
Red Velvet Snowball is about as well-crafted a record and the kind of follow-up LP any group could ask for. Except for a couple of delays between tracks that kills some of the energy between songs, everything is well-mixed with Pepper Rabbit’s vision flows through all 38 minutes. Singh’s penchant for musical diversity makes this a total listening experience – even the strange electronic warbling from “In Search of Simon Birch,” which fooled me into thinking something was inherently wrong with the wheel well in my car the first couple listens.
But that is part of Pepper Rabbit’s charm and their ability to make it feel Red Velvet Snowball was written just for you.