Packed with a cute, folksy vibe, Panda Su’s I Begin heavily utilises the understated vocal and instrumental sound that fans of female-fronted acoustic-indie acts adore. However, whether purposefully or not, founder Suzanne Isabel Ferreira tends to stumble down the path of irritating over-simplicity that Zooey Deschanel employs with She & Him, conveying a similar kind of loveliness but without the same sense of honesty necessary to make it believable.
Whilst the EP plods along nicely and has its hum-along moments every now and then, it’s very hard to feel like this hasn’t all been done before. ‘Bee Song’ doesn’t really do a huge amount from start to finish, and displays a bland and somewhat careless vocal effort with next to no thought for melody or development. ‘I Begin’ is a more interesting track, employing softly cooed vocals and a warm, relaxing timbre throughout. The song’s outro somewhat lessens its calm allure, with a chorus of voices painfully drawling the same line until it becomes almost unbearable. ’Alphabet Song’ begins beautifully, with a gorgeously plucked guitar line and subtle electronic rhythm building into a Morcheeba-like ambiance. The vocals, however, massively take away from the track by once again not seeming to care for dynamics or melody, eventually droning through two renditions of the alphabet with a maddeningly dull monotony. Thankfully, the whole EP is saved by the closing track ‘Facts and Figures’, in which we can finally hear the true charm of Panda Su begin to shine through, with a genuinely endearing melody accompanying clearly emotionally invested-in lyrics, hovering steadily above a piece that dynamically moves, develops and climaxes wonderfully.
I’m left feeling a little downhearted and frankly nonplussed by the attitude present on this EP. It certainly isn’t that Suzanne is talentless in either vocal, instrumental or compositional prowess – one listen to ‘Facts and Figures’ or ‘Éric Is Dead’ from Sticks & Bricks will make that starkly obvious - but after a few listens to her voice on I Begin, I can’t shake the feeling that she simply doesn’t care about what she is singing. Merlin Jobst
For fans of: Laura Marling, She & Him and Eels.
(Originally posted on Little Sparrow Reviews)