Friday, May 16, 2014

Album Review: Sylvan Esso - Sylvan Esso

Sylvan Esso’s self-titled debut may be one of the most anticipated local records ever in the Triangle. From a handful of local shows and two singles, Sylvan Esso has captured the attention of not only local fans, but the nation’s music media.

With Sylvan Esso, Nicholas Sanborn (Megafaun) and Amelia Meath (Mountain Man) present ten songs of simmering, playful electronic dance tunes. While their peer worry about perfecting their drop or making every song worthy of the last dance, Sanborn and Meath have something that sets them far apart: restraint.

This album actually plays a lot more like a jazz duet. Meath’s vocal work is shy, coy, and nimble and Sanborn tastefully plays off of her. On “Dress”, Sanborn carefully accentuates the breaks in Meath’s vocals with bass hits in a way that makes each note much more powerful. The duo isn’t afraid to let the space in the music play an equal role as the instruments.

That space is the difference between a fun dance album and something that feels musically mature. By keeping things in the pocket and the dynamics quieter, Sylvan Esso draws the listener closer and closer until the two fuse. This is 2014’s most irresistible album.

Only on “Play It Right” do they come close to the big, show-stopping tune. After eight more restrained songs, it’s a burst of euphoria which gently settles during the striking (mostly) a cappella “Come Down.”

Sylvan Esso is a wonderful record to bury yourself in under a pair of studio headphones with, but it can soundtrack more than private moments. This is a record for driving around town at night with the windows down, for impromptu dance parties with friends, and for falling in love. Sylvan Esso has fulfilled the hype and made the record of the summer.

Sylvan Esso is available now on Partisan Records.

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