Oh Pep! It’s a funny, odd, name. It gets a lot of attention of its own. “Oh” for Olivia Hally and “Pep” For Pepita Emmerichs, who hail from Melbourne, Australia. The exclamation point? Just good business sense.
But that’s not the reason to get into this band, whose brilliant debut EP, 2015’s Living, stirred our souls. Their new album, Stadium Cake, out only a few days ago via Dualtone, is why. It’s a deep, sometimes dark complex meditation on youth, co-dependence, and a flexing of considerable musical muscle. The unique quality of Oh Pep! is their exploration of instability. Seemingly straight-ahead tunes veer into odd meters, like the opening tune, “Bushwick“, which seems almost like a calculated bluff. The drum groove is straight-ahead and bright, and the tune opens with a scratching mandolin rhythm from Pepita Emmerichs. It’s almost breezy. But the song is about New York–not a breezy place. So listen to Olivia Hally:
I can’t help believing that I don’t belong here ’cause the people, they stare
and I start to freak out as I head to the stairs
Then the album gets richer, darker, and more experimental, and “Doctor Doctor” is the lead single, emblematic of the introducing the darker middle of the album.
I find myself rewinding to the trilogy of “Tea, Milk & Honey”, “Only Everyone” and “The Situation”, which feature tight, well-written poetry laid over complex melodies and odd rhythms; bizarre, tweaked effects on Emmerich’s mandolin and violin; and finishing with a song that sounds like a delightful mess made by Half Waif and Weezer. The constant through all this textural variety are these two women, singing with an honest full-voiced seriousness and playing brilliant sputtering instrumental lines. There’s an informative moment in every song from at each of them, and this musical dialogue is what makes the album a keeper.
In a perfect encapsulation of this confusing, rewarding piece, I leave you with a lyric from “Tea, Milk & Honey”.
If you don’t understand where I am now, It’s better if we leave it…
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