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“Dawn of the Century” by Christina Pepper

Consisting of material that was on the pop beat well over a hundred years ago, there’s an expectation when sitting down with the new record Dawn of the Century by Christina Pepper that we’re going to be hearing a lot of outdated musicality among her latest release, but nothing could be further from the truth. Upon pressing the play button, there’s not a moment wasted in the name of getting our attention, with the musical framework of songs like the title cut and “Uncle Sammy” quickly planting roots in anyone who happens to be within earshot. 

The piano is the star of the show in this LP, and despite a lot of tightness in the master mix, it never sounds like we’re listening to an instrument within a domed environment. So much of what makes Pepper a special player is her perspective, and on the sonic front, it’s especially clear that she put a lot of heart and soul into the details of this record (a department a lot of her peers just don’t know to keep up with when establishing themselves in this scene the way she does in these ten different songs). 

“On the Pier” and “Who’s Who in the Navy,” a pair of gems from the 1920s, sound like they’ve been given a whole new shot of vitality courtesy of the spirited play from Pepper, and both of these songs make me want to see what she can do in a live performance some time. She’s got a great energy to her delivery in every one of these tracks, particularly those that center on a singular arrangement, and if she could replicate the kind of results she’s achieving from inside of the recording studio in a live show, I think she would have a certain sliver of the underground market all to herself. 

“Heaven’s Artillery” and “Jack of Spades” perhaps celebrate the most indulgence of any songs included here, but there really isn’t any true minimalism worth writing about in Dawn of the Century. The best moments this LP has to offer are steeped in concepts of excess, no matter how old-fashioned they happen to be, and they wrap around us with the kind of affection that has been sorely missed in a lot of popular music over the past few years. Pepper makes this energy the main event in this album, and that on its own is quite commendable. 

Swinging with a sense of ease that I want to hear more of before 2023 has reached its expiration, I found Christina Pepper’s latest album to be a statement about melody and rhythm that hardcore music lovers cannot afford to skip over this February. Tried and true, the material that we encounter in this record might be classical in nature, but there’s no debating whether or not it has the eclectic groove to get those with an ear for the dapper excited about the work Pepper is offering right now. She’s got her place in the grander scheme of things in this LP, and she doesn’t mind flexing with the spot she’s been given at all. 

Mindy McCall



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