Singer/songwriter Grand Pax, also known as Annie Pax, builds rich, trippy tracks but wisely keeps her voice untouched, letting it shine through on PWR, a three-song EP. It’s a smart move because her voice is expressive, conveying an honesty and directness that’s striking. PWR is an all-too brief journey through a personal pop landscape.
“PWR” is the album’s most accessible song, a huge, propulsive back beat, Pax sounding like she’s singing to herself, and the vocals coated in a naturalness. Pax isn’t posturing or trying to create a persona; it feels like she’s letting us in to a personal monologue. It helps that the track is catchy, sounding like something that could chart, but also like something deeper that never would.
“Blur” is slow and trippy, a pretty melody warped by production-tortured drum beats, with sound debris thrown in its way. Pax’s vocal snakes through it all, at times almost crying out in pain, just for a moment, before the song returns to a more familiar emotional pitch. “One of Us” is another pretty melody, this one a rhythm and blues groove, an improbable mash-up of Duran Duran and Sade. Pax uses a falsetto, which feels a little removed from the candor of her natural register on “PWR,” but which works well for the tune.
Pax has an impressive sense of song and melody. The songs are all impeccably produced, but spin after spin, I found myself returning to her voice, which has an old-fashioned soulfulness that’s allowed to shine through because it’s left alone on the EP. It’s contemporary tracks with an old-school vocal production workflow, which one imagines is something like 1) Pax turns onthe mic, 2) does her thing, and then 3) we get to enjoy the unadorned results.
review by Steven Ovadia