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CD REVIEW: PEP - debut album teaser
By Ashley Petkovski - 01/26/2003 - 01:55 AM EST

Artist: PEP
Album: debut album teaser
CD Review: Oh, how to say this and retain a sense of critical dignity that may or may not exist… PEP is phenomenal. Frickin’ phenomenal. Armed with a guitar, a unique, almost gritty voice, and undeniably powerful songs, the twenty six year old L.A. musician’s three-song teaser EP proves that to be a bold, creative musician, you don’t need to, as they, the big metaphorical gods of cliché say, push the envelope in order to stand out. All it takes is a good song… or three.

PEP’s standout quality is her ability to write a song. Creating since the age of 8, PEP takes on her subject matter – love, relationships, other insanely complicated matters of the heart – with poise and sincerity. She’s not afraid to be honest, and more importantly, she’s not afraid to be strong. Even with just an acoustic guitar bleating away in the background, PEP is an assertive voice in a sass-less world of female newcomers who would rather whine their way through twenty tracks than seek out the good from the bad, and take their lives into their own hands. On “Safe” she sings: “Her reflection/ it’s empty but still her friend/ and it screams ‘you know it can still all be worth it/ just look ahead.’” That one line alone reflects both the confidence and honesty that she is so skillful at portraying.

As I listened to PEP’s sampler, I couldn’t help but think of Team Dresch, who have, to me, always been able to balance vulnerability and heartache with collective ass-kicking prowess. As PEP’s sampler went from confusion, hope and love (“Safe”) to devotion and heartbreak (“Believe”) to packing up and moving on, but not before letting ‘em have it (“I Don’t Need”), I realized that she too is able to balance normal emotions without entering woe-is-me territory. Her words, although not complicated nor veiled by literary loftiness, are compelling and genuine, capable of striking a powerful understanding with nearly everyone who takes the time to listen.

Musically, the three songs all contain elements of folk, pop, and rock, reflecting PEP’s variety of influences. Her voice is, while not refined, impressively strong and melds well with the skillfully performed, bare-bones instrumentation. The dynamic of each song shifts fluently, each stylistic change unexpected and welcome. Particularly on “Safe,” there are some standout harmonies/backup vocals. The production is rock-solid, each layer clear and distinct, providing just enough polish to keep the melodies clean and everything proficiently precise.

While someone who views her through superficial eyes could easily label PEP another girl-with-a-guitar, she proves that she is, in fact, much more. A poignant and talented songwriter and singer, PEP proves that what sets certain musicians apart from the rest is the ability to create incredible music. With only three songs, PEP has confirmed her abilities, and with an entire album, “Coming Together,” set for release in the spring of this year, one can predict - or at least hope for - great things to come. She’s amazing, and there really isn’t anything more that you need to say.


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