Music » Album Review

CD Review: Sylvan Esso's Sylvan Esso

Partisan; Release Date: May 13, 2014



More than two years ago, the enchanting folk trio Mountain Man shared a bill with Nick Sanborn's hip-hop-inspired electronic project, Made of Oaks. Few could have imagined that such disparate acts could mesh together so wonderfully, but alas that seemingly random pairing resulted in one of the most exciting acts to come from North Carolina in recent memory. Mountain Man vocalist Amelia Meath was stricken by Sanborn's compositions and shortly after their show sought a collaboration with the Megafaun bassist. Meath sent Sanborn "Play It Right" for a remix and the rest was history.

Years later, the duo known as Sylvan Esso has finally put out its long-awaited self-titled debut, an album that bobs and weaves through various electronic soundscapes with deft precision.

From the opening acapella intro on the anthemic "Hey Mami" to the closing notes of the minimalistic "Come Down," Meath and Sanborn display brilliant interplay that combines bright vocal melodies with crunching bass lines and stuttering synths.

Sylvan Esso traverses a myriad of genres, ranging from house-inspired tracks like "HSKT" to folktronic-pop gems like "Could I Be," another track born from melodies meant for Mountain Man.

A lot of the joy in this album comes from how wonderfully the twee vocals juxtapose the immense productions that lie beneath. There's a rich dynamic range in these tracks that leaves listeners lost within Meath's dreamy melodies and ripped back to reality by Sanborn's thunderous synth lines.

Whether Meath is crooning over catcalls in "Hey Mami," blasting lady-killers in "Wolf" or lamenting over life's constant change in "Coffee," the listener is stricken by the powerful emotive qualities of her vocals. Sylvan Esso is an album that seamlessly bridges a gap between the soaring melodic tendencies of modern folk and the rich dynamism of electronic music. This swiftly rising duo has crafted a musical space all its own that serves as a brilliant introduction for what one can hope to be a long, illustrious career.

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