Gregory Pepper & His Problems

A native of Guelph, Ontario, the singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist was acclaimed for his 2009 release With Trumpets Flaring, hailed as “conceptually minded and very, very clever”. Some even pointed out that “Pepper taps into the demented genius/ambition of Brian Wilson for his orchestral pop songs, which are head-scratchingly great” and that “this is an intelligently crafted pop album”. But while Trumpets was experimental and admittedly lo-fi, Escape From Crystal Skull Mountain is more boisterous and confident, meticulously arranged and produced. Moreover, it features killer performances by Toronto-area musical dignitaries, hand-picked from the ranks of Bry Webb and the Providers, OhbijouCuff The DukeDo Make Say Think, and The Niagara Symphony Orchestra.

After spending the last couple years focusing on the hip-pop side project Common Grackle and countless collaborations with producers and emcees (Awol One, Kirby Dominant, Noah 23), Pepper has returned to short, succinct tunes devoid of samples, loops, and synthesizers. This new record is another step forward in His ongoing pursuit of classic pop filtered through a modern lens, deliberately more focused in its aesthetic than past releases. Elements of power pop, jazz, chamber music and garage rock are fused by infectious melodies and ornate vocal harmonies. Add that to ample brass and string arrangements atop an aggressive rhythm section with most of the 17 songs flowing seamlessly into one another, and you have an album that demands to be played on repeat.