Sylvan Esso – What Now
Following three years of bouncing between sold-out shows, Sylvan Esso's second album What Now reckons with the popularity, and ensuing normalisation, of their sound. On opener Sound they strip things back to the fundamentals, Meath singing an austere duet with a glitchy synth. Her voice and the digital instrument imitate and melt into one another in what is a bold and intriguing restatement of the organic/synthetic amalgam at the heart of the whole endeavour.
The Glow, meanwhile, is Esso’s most straightforwardly affecting song to date, the titular glow referring to both the radiance of youth and, unless we’re wildly mistaken, the song of the same name by The Microphones (the “Phil” namechecked is surely Elverum). It's a euphoric tribute to the way music can define pivotal moments in one’s life.
Along with the luminous Signal, those tracks tease a different side of Esso that’s left sadly unexplored on the rest of the album. Mostly, What Now is intent on being bigger and brasher than its predecessor, perhaps to avoid politely slipping into the background quite so easily. Radio sports a thumping beat and catchy chorus teeming with popular appeal but also wants to be ambivalent about sticking with the programme. “Don’t you look good sucking an American dick,” Meath declares, but it sounds less like an affront to established tastes than an apology for kowtowing to their needs and wants.
Listen to: The Glow, Signal
Buy Sylvan Esso - What Now on LP/CD from Norman Records