Review: Black Pepper Sea – Charcoal Essex Park

RPM is a couple months gone and I still haven’t gotten to listen to nearly as much of what came out of it as I would have liked.  However, one album that was recommended on the RPM forums was Charcoal Essex Park by Black Pepper Sea.  Working in the yard today, I loaded up my iPod shuffle with some Bowie, Smashing Pumpkins, Nick Cave and Black Pepper Sea and as I was listening to the Pepper Sea tracks, it occurred to me: this isn’t just one the best albums from RPM; this is one of the best albums of 2010.

The album kicks off with an awesome track one, side one: Even Calliope Knows.  It’s got an infectious kind of psychedelic power pop you would expect on a long lost track from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  In fact, on the whole — with a sound that often approaches later-era Beatles or Oasis — it’s easy to assume Black Pepper Sea is from some tiny town in the suburbs of the UK.  In fact, “they” (I use they loosely as, from what I can gather from the RPM music page, Black Pepper Sea is just one person: J. Montgomery) are from Nashville, TN, something that possibly influences the country-inspired Cowboy Sparrow or the folksy The One that Makes Me High.

Where the album truly shines, though, is when it veers back into the more upbeat tracks.  Usually, with an RPM album, a certain amount of leniency needs to be given knowing that the album was written, recorded and then sent off to New Hampshire in 28 days or less.  But the rough-around-the-edges feel of many RPM albums (including my own, but I’ll contend that that’s the case with my non-RPM music also, and that it’s intentional…sort of) is missing from tracks like the title track, Jackson’s Car and The Water Carver.  Okay, I’ll grant that if I listen really hard, it’s probably a canned drum machine, but it’s never distracting to the music, which sounds complete and whole, like any “professionally”-produced track should.

The best part, of course, is that the album is completely free.  You can download the tracks from a number of places including Alonetone, RPM or, if you want some higher quality versions (including lossless) Bandcamp.  This album is awesome, and I’ve downloaded his 2009 RPM album as a result.  Definitely check him out, add him to your iPod, tell your friends.