Photo by Luke Gareth Joyce
Ferreira’s voice is softly powerful, with singer/songwriter clarity. She sticks in her strong middle register, favoring melodies that slide around only a few notes and that deliver her lyrics more than the melodies themselves. Like the songs on I Begin, her vocals are seemingly straightforward and immediately attractive.
But the meat of I Begin goes much deeper than that. Ferreira’s lyrics are complex stories that boil underneath their simple exteriors. “Alphabet Song,” depicts Ferreira struggling to retain a sense of control over herself and her world. She reverts back to the simplest thing she knows she can do: close her eyes and count down from ten. Towards the end of the song, in a stunning moment, she recites the alphabet all the way through, and the tension as she goes through each letter builds to the end. “…but the alphabet’s worthless/ and there’s letters in there that you can’t even use,” she sings. “Bee Song,” my favorite track on I Begin, is a tale about a girl, a cruel boy, and the bee he catches. As her emotions swirl between pain, anger, helplessness, and longing, each character becomes the bee, in one sense or another.
Producer Robin Sutherland has done a brilliant job mirroring the tension between Ferreira’s complex lyrics and her simple song style in his arrangements. Drums and guitar are usually far to the front, creating a constant, easy-going groove. But underneath the beat there is a constant ebb and flow of textures. Soft electronic gestures, bits of creative percussion use, and a variety of orchestrations accumulate through each song. Often, these touches are extremely delicate and subtle; Sutherland always leaves plenty of room for Ferreira’s voice, and they fit seamlessly into the fabric of each song.
I especially like how, despite I Begin’s thick orchestrations, Ferreira and Sutherland usually resist vocal harmonies. The songs on this album are confessional, told in the form of memories and reflections. Because of their personal, intimate nature, it makes sense that they should be sung with only a single voice. The one song that relies heavily on multi-tracked vocals, “Facts and Figures,” was my least favorite on the EP, largely because of its harmonies.
With I Begin EP, Panda Su has crafted an album that is immediately likeable while becoming better and better with each subsequent listening. That’s a good place to inhabit. You can hear more on her myspace page, at last.fm or on facebook. If you’re lucky enough to live in the U.K., you can catch her at Drouthy’s in Dundee on April 21st.
I Begin EP comes out worldwide on April 18th.