Album Review: Sylvan Esso – What Now

The folktronica pop energy that Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn achieved on their debut album as Sylvan Esso does not amount to the same overall toned-down energy throughout their recent release What Now. The band is still tight and I’m sure sold out crowds will be dancing their asses off all Summer long to these new songs, but the older, initial Sylvan Esso classic fan-favorites like Could I Be, Coffee or H.S.K.T. are at best tied if not still catchier than the fresher, brand new jams.

The album begins with a two and half minute meditation/prayer jam-packed with synths and attentive studio production. Amelia sings “I was gonna write a song for you, Gonna sing it out loud, Gonna sing it at such decibels that, All you’ll hear is sound. All you’ll feel is sound. All you’ll be is sound.” This opening serves as an introductory poem as that phrase is repeated throughout the entire track. Sound is a track one for a follow up album because it keeps the suspense boiling for fans who have been waiting for new Sylvan Esso songs.

Die Young is a perfect example of a song that explains that difference between the first two albums. After the single dropped I felt that this was just an ok song that admittedly was catchy but definitely not one of my top preferences. However after a full album listen it stands out memorable as one of the more entertaining tracks. The recurring background effects keep the pulse of the song strong and makes the transitions even more exciting and epic.

Song is a unique track on the album and stands out for its hidden acoustic guitar backing. It’s rare to hear this raw, organic instrument on a Sylvan Esso track and it proves how the duo’s folk roots still live on to their spiced up electronic outfit. Just Dancing and Signal are the two new songs that can even be close to the same feel good upbeat vibes as the classics from the self-titled debut. In Just Dancing the song builds and builds with electrofolk excitement and by the end of the song each and every track layer that makes up the song is booming with energy and attitude.

Signal may be the number one highlight of the album. It’s the newest Sylvan Esso song that captivates fans in the same way the classics did, and with a memorable hook like the chorus in the song, it is a recipe for an outstanding gem. Sylvan Esso are back with a fresh set of ten new jams that might not give you the same excitement that the first batch of songs did, but after a second or third listen you’ll appreciate the new songs and get excited for the Summer tour.

Scott J. Herman