Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that Pepper Rabbit is just two guys. Their brand of expansive, chiller-than-chill lo-fi chamber pop can, at its best, resemble the Arcade Fire at their most sedate, or their L.A. brethren Local Natives at their most electronic. Their sound is lush and friendly, a good-natured take on the already inherently good-natured popwave that’s been gently rippling through the indiesphere for some time now. At their best, Pepper Rabbit take this feel-goodery and turn it on its ear, such as the album highlight “Murder Room,” a friendly groover told from the perspective of a Unabomber type.
However, if you really want to get anything out of Pepper Rabbit’s second album, Red Velvet Snowball, do yourself a favor and download the following three songs: “Lake House,” Rose Mary Stretch,” and the aforementioned “Murder Room.” You don’t really need to listen to anything else, because the rest of the album consists purely of subpar versions of those three songs. Those three songs, it should reiterated, are pretty fantastic. “Lake House” sounds like the Paul McCartney giving lessons on the history of the keyboard, and “Rose Mary Stretch” has this whole upbeat stop-start thing sounds fantastic on record and probably sounds transcendent live. But again, that’s about it.
It’s sort of a shame when a band with three great songs like these is told they have to come up with a record to match those three, instead of just cutting an EP or, better yet, waiting until seven more great songs come to them to release a record. Inevitably, they end up with boggling amounts of filler that tries to replicate their successes but comes up short, such as “The Annexation Of Puerto Rico,” which sounds a lot like “Lake House,” but is not about the annexation of Puerto Rico, and “In Search Of Simon Birch,” which is an acoustic-y song that is not, sadly about a fictional character from a movie but instead sort of about having a one night stand.
That’s another problem with Red Velvet Snowball. The lyrics meander, often failing to offer so much as a hooky line or even a coherent narrative. That’s not a problem per se, and when a weird tunesmith such as Ty Segall or Kurt Vile does it, it comes off as a bold move. However, when you’re making chamber pop that’s so preciously twee, having coherence and hooks is basically the name of the game. And by those rules, Pepper Rabbit have lost.