Moving and shaking to 'What Now'

New Sylvan Esso record brings fun summer songs


Sylvan Esso's sound has evolved and improved on "What Now," their first release in three years.

Following the unexpected success of their debut self-titled album, electronic duo Sylvan Esso took a three-year pause to tour and enhance their music. Their sound has changed drastically in that time, and their new release, “What Now,” is full of new ideas and a more mainstream pop sound, containing melodically pleasing songs that have the potential to reach as many audiences as their electro-pop hit, “Coffee.”

However, their new album is still packed with their signature electronic voices, loops and riffs. The record is glowing, with a lyrical theme of dancing, singing and being free in the creation of music. There is an emphasis on movement that glides through the songs in the setlist. Nothing is stagnant, and nothing is dull.

Among the songs in the record, the standouts come in the forms of fun, short and exciting songs all about the small moments in life, whether that’s listening to music on the walk home from school or dancing with someone who doesn’t know your name. In the powerful second track, “The Glow,” lead singer Amelia Meath sings about the beauty of surrounding herself with people who have influenced her. She also expresses her love for music through the lines “In my headphones / After school and slightly stoned / I remember the glow.” With this song, Meath also introduces listeners to the themes of dancing and moving by telling them about her friend Micah, who is “so dreamy, shaking in the crowd.” The song moves with pleasing pop synths and loops that urge listeners to dance and shake with Meath’s pulsing vocal rhythms.

Previously released singles such as “Radio” and “Die Young” contribute some familiarity to the record. “Die Young” is perhaps the most exciting and interesting on the record, as Meath explores romantic narratives through the chorus line, “I was gonna die young / Now I gotta wait for you, honey.” With these lyrics, Meath touches on the importance of relationships and the feeling of meeting someone who changes your life plans. The synthesized tones and powerful beats from producer Nick Sanborn mesh perfectly with Meath’s smooth voice and add layers of texture and excitement. Scattered throughout the song is the repeated line “Had it all planned out before you met me / I had a plan you ruined it completely,” which adds new lyrical and rhythmic elements. The line acts as a rhythmic instrument in itself while also communicating Meath’s message.

Sylvan Esso has graduated from merely putting out fun electronic songs to creating and cultivating tracks with substance and intention. The glowing and moving experimental sounds throughout the setlist create an experience. The album is a more expressive experience, and it never touches the ground. Meath and Sanborn emphasize the importance of creativity through their reflections on relationships and the freedom of life through music. It is truly a perfect ode to the warmer months ahead — full of freedom and potential. 

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