Album Review :
Fepeste - What You Don't Know
By Casey Gallenberger in Reviews | No Comments
Borrowing its namesake from a Watashi Wa song, Colorado Springs-based Fepeste craft similarly-intricate, chill songs. Fepeste’s second album expands on its predecessor, opting for a greater focus on electric instrumentation and guest collaborations. The result is a surfy/psychedelic approach to songwriting anchored firmly in Scripture. These latest offerings may feel oddly seaborne given their origins in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains, but rest assured Eric Jett and crew know what they’re doing. There’s a strong sense of simple honesty at play – the ruminations of an adult with children, navigating hectic life in our post-truth world. The songs deal in serious matters in a sort of playful way, though. It’s like the audio equivalent of a watercolor book, where even as Jett expresses he has “no fight left” on “Cares and Worries”, his struggle is encased in clouds of shimmering reverb and major-key melodies. Pair it with a bright and vibrant, if not mysterious, album cover and the result is fairly blissful.
I went into this album a bit blinding, not knowing anything about the project. The album’s title is ambiguous enough, but as I listened through “Open Mouth (Fill It Up)”, I first caught a reference to Gideon. Slowly, other things started to fade in view, like references to Christ’s words regarding the sparrows and the lilies. By the end, there is no subtlety. Fepeste draws an easy comparison to Kevin Schlereth due to a similar unabashed focus on the Word and lyric-first songwriting. On “A Time Like This”, Jett’s voice even isn’t too far from Schlereth’s. In other moments, he reminds me of Durry or Hopesfall – there’s a bit of bluesy grit peppered in. Musically, there’s a bit of a vintage flavor at play but it’s not hard to see the silhouette of The Strokes or The Killers lurking in the near distance.
This is an album that shimmers in hope and certainty, though not carelessly so. There are trials and testings across the lyrics. But the musical backbone and joyous overtones are a reminder that grace prevails.
The aforementioned “Cares and Worries” is an early highlight. It speaks to how we can’t see God clearly when when are stuck looking at the temporal nature of our circumstances.
“New Skin”, another pre-release single, shows meandering guitarlines, punchy bass, and delay-trail vocal lines for incredible effect. It’s a little more restrained compared to some of the other tracks, but there’s a tight groove and the end is smooth and crystalline. Lyrically, it’s a track that looks forward to the recreated world – but it shows Jett’s sense of lyrical levity as well.
These bones are tired,
Brittle, bruised, and heavy
And this heart is hurting,
Fearful, anxious, and weary
Yeah, and my mind is searching,
(and… uh… anyway…)
It’s the little quips like this that add both depth and humanity to the songs.
“Grain of Sand” pays tribute to Jett’s California roots, opting for a raging surf rock approach. Jett remarks how “If you ever wanna make God laugh, just tell Him your plans” – in regards to both the mundane and spiritual realities of life. Later on in the album, he remarks how horses and chariots have no power. It embodies a sort of Psalms 2:4 vibe where if God is not phased by evil, we shouldn’t be either. And it once again ends with a bit of humor that’ll have you laughing as well:
But I’ll tell ya, if you ever wanna make God laugh
You just tell him, yeah, you tell him
Go on, go on and tell him
Go on and tell him your jokes
(I mean, your plans)
“Abide With Me” is the only unoriginal song, with lyrics from Henry F. Lyte dating back to the 1800s. While redone hymns are not a new thing, there aren’t too many that feel like slow dance soundtracks. I’m actually reminded quite a bit of the band Graveyard Club and their moody surf songs.
The one-two punch of “(I Care But) What Do I Care?” and “You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know” serves to close the album with two very different sides of Fepeste’s songwriting. The former is a sort of maximalist, pseudo-chamber-pop arrangement that features horns, harmonica, and glockenspiel. There’s a tie-in to the first track as well.
Our mouths you fill with laughter
On our tongues shouts of joy
The latter of the two is more akin to Fepeste’s previous record, showing a gentler and slower side. The track wrestles yet again with our limited perspective in light of eternity and finding trust in the unseen nature of the Lord’s promises. It’s a pretty peaceful and hopeful close.
All in all, What You Don’t Know really feels like music for the whole family. That might seem like an odd thing to pull out as a primary summary based off everything else I’ve said to this point, but it feels accurate. There’s a playfulness here that almost moves into the world of lullabies and children’s music, but there’s enough substance and heart to show that the songs come from a place of seasoned wisdom and tested faith. There’s the academic, theological side – and the subtlety of tracks forming a sort of chiasm – but there’s the blissful wonder of sun-soaked riffs and lyrical punchlines that give the album a sort of dreamy feeling. Add in the collaborative element, from female backing vocals to banjo and beyond, and the result really just feels like a bunch of people gathered together with joy. It’s something that seems missing in a lot of albums today.
What You Don’t Know releases on May 30. Be sure to keep up with Fepeste on Instagram, Spotify, and Bandcamp.