REVIEW: Amanda Merdzan shines through the electro-pop journey of ‘Commands’

amanda merdzan

I love a good EP. Used properly, the shortened format of the EP can be extremely effective in a variety of ways. It can be used to explore a new sound; it can be used to create a very specific emotion or reaction in the listener in just a brief amount of time; it can be used to deliver a concise, powerful story or viewpoint in a way that a full LP sometimes can’t. Amanda Merdzan, a Perth-based singer-songwriter, uses her new EP, Commands, to do all of the above.

Merdzan’s 2013 EP The Map Has Been Redrawn is a mellow project, with acoustic guitar and piano dominating each of the tracks. Commands sticks with the piano, but ditches the guitar in favor of layers and layers of billowing synths. Opening track “Glow” is the perfect illustration for what Commands entails. The song feels like it will never stop expanding, with a sturdy, repeating kick from the percussion being the only thing grounding the track on Earth while Merdzan’s vocals float hypnotically over a gorgeous, synthetic soundscape.

Merdzan’s production skills shine right alongside those of her songwriting as the entire EP had me breathless. What strikes me about the production on Commands is how big everything feels. The sound that Merdzan creates feels big in the way that the sky feels when you’re out in a field at night and all the stars are out. It’s big in a way that’s stunning because it feels impossibly vast compared to you. As the subdued bass line hums under Merdzan’s cascading vocals on “All Of You,” or the violin that opens “Matter” gives way to oscillating synths, it swallows the listener up. “You’re looking like a wreck they said / your mind and body will not rest,” she sings on the chorus of “Matter,” and it’s hard not to get lost in this crashing sonic vision.

The subject matter of Commands finds Merdzan exploring the feelings of revealing a same-sex relationship after a long period of keeping it hidden and the crumbling of a friendship with someone close to her. It’s an incredibly moving and personal EP, mixing equal parts acceptance and melancholy into a formidable experience. “It’s burning, it’s burning out,” Merdzan repeats on “Flame,” and the weight of those few words are palpable. The album closes on “Bury The Rest” and finds Merdzan after the end of the failed friendship, reflecting as synths build up in the background, reaching a crescendo before slowly fading into the outro of the EP.

Every one of the songs on Commands features some combination of great production, writing, and execution to leave a lasting impression with the listener. There are instances where the balance of the production overpowers Merdzan’s lyrics, but these moments are infrequent.

Commands is an incredibly solid EP, effectively telling a deeply personal story while showcasing strong songwriting and a keen sense of production. This is an EP that you’ll be revisiting throughout the rest of the summer, as each track has a ton to offer in their sounds and their lyrics. If she wasn’t already, Amanda Merdzan should now officially be on your music radar.

‘Commands’ was released independently on July 25 and can be purchased and/or streamed here.