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Jeremy Panda

Son Ame Feliz

[Self-released; 2012]

By ; August 23, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Despite the fact the Jeremy Panda could very easily tag himself not only as a guitarist, but one who played with Owen Pallett for five years, his first solo album, Son Ame Feliz, is strangely void of any significant guitar presence (or similarities to the Canadian violin virtuoso, for that matter). But considering the album’s creation, this isn’t really surprising. “When conceptualizing the Son Ame Feliz record I felt strongly that I shouldn’t be restricted by any one genre, but to be conscious of what would serve the song best,” says Panda. And this line of thought is apparent when listening to Son Ame Feliz, as it rarely stays in one place long and often sounds like it’s itching to break free.

The fact that the album doesn’t rely heavily or solely on guitars makes it a more intriguing and varied listen, but in his attempt to try and find the right sound for each song, Panda can come off sounding a little disorganised and, at times, chaotic. Sometimes this is fine. Opening track “I Am Not A Dream” propels itself forward with a fidgeting bass riff and hurried drumming while “Feel My Soul” creates a paranoid atmosphere with distortion and backtrack effects. At other points during the album’s runtime, things can sound like they are struggling to find a place to go, or like they’re simply having trouble getting to the place they want to. “Straight and Tall” has plenty of momentum (provided by a full onslaught of instruments), but it never quite hits the cathartic release it wants to achieve. And although it rides a nice sound, “Not It’s A Bike Ride” feels more like a passing curiosity with its drum machine backbone and dreamy guitar melodies.

Although it does have its calmer moments, Son Ame Feliz sticks in your mind as an angry and exasperated record, which makes sense as Panda admits he was trying to channel more than one particular frustration through his songs. “Reality, coming to terms with our limited time here, the frustration of apathy around us,” he explained to me. And again, this goes back to the chaotic sound described earlier: while Panda may have sought to get the right sound for each song, the varied instrumentation could well be interpreted as a literal reference to the messy, troubling fact of one’s existence.

All this noise does have its benefits, aside from capturing anger and such: it helps accentuates the lighter, quieter moments. “So We Dance” stutters in the background as Panda sings earnestly over piano chords, like he’s nervous about being sincere; before long the song jolts back into the woozy and caffeinated opening riff on “Straight and Tall.” Female vocals on “Sometimes It Gets So Cold” make for a welcome change while the light, breezy acoustic guitars on “Friends” come as pleasant surprise between the stodgy rock of “April 30th” and “Business of Forgetting.”

The anger is present, however, and it finds its way into Panda’s lyrics and delivery. While epistemological questions appear here and there (the title of “I Am Not A Dream,” “I wonder if I’m a fly on the wall” he sings like an insomniac on “Feel My Soul”) it mainly sounds like he’s reeling off about a bad breakup which has left him bitter. “I fucked it up good” he begins on “Just What You Don’t Want” before lashing out while singing the song’s title over and over, providing the listener with one of the most easily relatable frustrations and the album’s most memorable moment. Panda’s lyrics aren’t especially deep and aren’t always as poetic as he aims for, but he puts everything into his grainy Springsteen-esque delivery which makes up most of his lyrical trip-ups.

Come the end of the album, Panda sounds like he’s waking from a dream. On “Story” he sings “She didn’t act surprised/ When she found out I was crazy,” like he’s realizing the world is not a desolate, cold, and lonely place, and that one’s paranoia and frustration about existence doesn’t mean you’re meant to be alone forever. Musically the song is one of the album’s lighter moments (complete with a few light horns) and it’s a good point for Son Ame Feliz to let go and unwind the frustrated coils that are scattered throughout the other ten songs. The album’s a good exploration of frustration, and considering Panda has been the man in the side-lines for fifteen years (as guitarist, keyboardist, recording artist, etc), he’s understandably got a lot exhale. But these kinds of feelings can easily be vented in a way that makes an artist sound hasty, and Son Ame Feliz isn’t short of these moments, even despite its short runtime. At the same time, though, Panda sounds like he’s getting a lot out here that he needed to get out, which he can’t be faulted him for. “This is an honest record–[the] first of many,” he explained. There’s enough going on on Son Ame Feliz to have faith in Panda for his next outing; once you’ve collected yourself after the initial outburst, one tends to be more considered and thoughtful.


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