Red Velvet Snowball
Aug 08, 2011 #37 – St. Vincent
It’s dangerous to name your sophomore album after a dessert. On the one hand, it’s a sugar-laced treat favored by many. On the other hand, is there anything more precious than what essentially sounds like the world’s biggest cupcake? Thankfully, Red Velvet Snowball is more sweet than cloying—a complex album that takes multiple listens to fully unpack.
Back are the orchestral swells, expanded from the scrappy arrangements of debut Beauregard to a notable lushness. Frontman Xander Singh still delivers lines in a squeaky upper-register, but now his voice sounds like a more homegrown counterpoint, and less the product of self-aware quirk—framed by bells, pianos, clarinets, horns, guitars, and the occasional choir.
Lyrics, on the other hand, still lag, often a bit too pedestrian for their top shelf accompaniments. While the “Because I killed you dead” punch line of “Murder Room” is cleverly worked into the catchy refrain of “Tiny Fingers,” other quotes from the song aren’t offered the same redemption. “Everybody lies/and everyone’s a cop?” “I put your head in the window, for everybody to see/no one yet realizes it’s not connected to the rest of your body?” Uh, no…
This of course isn’t to say that Pepper Rabbit aren’t without charm. Often their simplistic themes play off the sugary instrumentals, as is the case with the flirt-worthy, bell-filled track, “Allison,” and the unexpectedly synth-filled “Family Planning.” Here the L.A.-based duo shines, transforming common occurrences to a level of near fairytale.
More than just showing signs of advancement, penultimate track “The Ballad of Alessandro Moreschi,” indicates a band ready to join the big leagues. Not just a tune named after a 19th-century castrato singer, its subtle build (which carries into closing track “Tiny Fingers”) hints at Pepper Rabbit’s expansive, untapped potential. Today, they’re great. But tomorrow? They could become classic. (www.facebook.com/pepperrabbit)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 8/10