Panda & Angel, a soft-core band from Seattle, don’t quite know what to do with their guitars on their self-titled debut EP. Alternating between hushed, intensely personal pop ballads and surprisingly biting distorted accompaniments, the band it often beautiful but only sometimes compelling. This not-quite-settled aesthetic is highlighted on “Dangerous”, which starts with echoing water effects building up a subtle guitar background and drum machine and transitions into a slow-core middle section that rumbles uncomfortably. When everything but Carrie Murphy’s lilting voice drops away, as in the opening of “China”, you remember why you thought this was a vehicle for melancholy beauty again—and wonder why the distortion’s even necessary. But opener “Mexico” is a gorgeous, lithe song, Murphy’s voice so soft and hushed it’s about to fade away (like PJ Harvey if she were totally unconcerned with whoever’s listening); and when it blossoms, unexpectedly, three minutes in to a full marching-band lament, with piccolo and horns, the range of the band approaches breathtaking status. “A Thousand Whispers” may hold a clue to the way the band can blossom: shudders of noise underline emotion, rather than substitute for it.
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