Album of the Week: Sylvan Esso, 'What Now'

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Sylvan Esso
Sylvan Esso - What Now (Loma Vista Records)
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Sylvan Esso's new album, What Now, is a minor miracle. It is essentially a record in miniature: gradually ramping up, a short burst of color, then another slow comedown. This is music that takes a while to reveal itself (even I'm still working on unlocking it fully), but it provides great fun along the way.

The first two songs are striking in their seeming simplicity, both in words and sound. The first song is even called "Sound," where Amelia Meath repeats the same verse several times through a Korg synthesizer, giving the effect of an introduction or even a warmup exercise for the music ahead. "The Glow" follows in breezy fashion, a nostalgic look back toward the Microphones' The Glow Pt. 2.

The three big singles drop in quick succession next: "Die Young," "Radio," and "Kick Jump Twist." "Die Young" is one of the richest, most subtly captivating songs of the year, followed by "Radio," which of course is the most sardonically catchy song Sylvan Esso have written to date. "Kick Jump Twist" then wraps up Side A in strong fashion. Side B proceeds to play out inversely, with another three strong tunes that could each follow as singles, before the album concludes with another pair of sparse, barely-there tunes. Just like that, the album has wrapped up in a brisk 36 minutes, leaving a giddily disoriented feeling, like an awesome dream that fades to barely remembered in the span of moments.

What Now is a terrific second album from Sylvan Esso. Whether they continue down the path of quiet challenges, or if they go full pop in the style of "Radio," they are in this for the long haul, and the future bodes well.

Resources


Sylvan Esso - Official Site

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