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What Now [LP]
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  • As far as difficult second albums go, Sylvan Esso's sophomore effort sounds anything but, as evidenced by the assured single "Kick Jump Twist." It's a bombastic cut complete with bleeping, burping, and bellowing synths that rise and fall in layers, underpinned by Amelia Meath's rhythmic vocal. In short, it's the kind of pop banger that's likely to satisfyingly answer the anticipation that has built since their last release, and no doubt seduce a number of new fans to their particular blend of indie pop. On the flip side, the opening track of What Now has more in common with their predilection toward a more off-kilter take on pop music. It matches unearthly vocals with an earthly melody over retro electronics, and under a hiss of static. "Sound" is a rather beautiful way to begin the record, if an unexpected one. The hypnotic effect is broken by the following track, "The Glow," which picks up the pace with nimble, energized, and lightly wielded electronica that has a warmly organic texture. That freshness sometimes takes a more conservative turn. Given that "Radio" takes a pop at the superficial nature of the music industry, it seems strange that they have chosen to do it with one of their less imaginative tracks. It's also difficult to tell if the "slave to the radio" chorus is purposefully outdated in its reference [insert streaming service of choice]. Nevertheless, the barbed lyrics are good fun: "Don't you look good sucking American dick/You so surprised they like you, you're so cute and so quick." Similarly, just as the big hook backed by brassy keys and a dramatic drum machine on "Die Young" makes for perfectly serviceable electropop, they're probably more successful when their music embraces the slight oddness that made their debut such a delight. Rather than veering into generic genre tropes, as on "Just Dancing," the tracks that explore more unique approaches are more enjoyable for it. "Slack Jaw" is such a song. It's one of the quieter moments on the record, and also one of the most touching, complete with a ding that feels like it's pinging at your eardrum with its warm entreaties. It's credit to the duo that this album can hold the sunny indie pop of "Song" alongside the strange arrhythmic percussion of "Rewind," making for a varied experience. What Now is less eccentrically atmospheric than its predecessor, but their boisterous energy is intoxicating enough to win you over, and their sense of fun is palpable. ~ Bekki Bemrose
Professional Reviews
Spin - "Sylvan Esso offer up more of the same -- sweet melodic hooks, obscure new drum samples and wacky synth textures -- albeit more nuanced and mature, and with a palpable lust to entertain."

Entertainment Weekly - "It's a brief but dazzling tour through what sounds like a Super Mario rave held on the dark side of Rainbow Road, though its real highlights are quiet stunners like 'Song' and the genuinely jaw-dropping 'Slack Jaw.'"

Magnet - "The album's whiz-bang production is a consistent kick. but it's really on those distilled ECHO MOUNTAIN visual essays that true love takes hold, in large part due to the ace supporting players..."

Paste (magazine) - "The album opens with the crackling, fuzzy radio sounds of 'Sound,' with Meath's voice peeking through and growing in strength as the grainy pops and scratches synch up into a familiarly Sylvan Esso-esque rhythm."

Clash (Magazine) - "Luscious builds of tinkering synths intro `Just Dancing', as rapid and slow tempos contrast one another, capturing those moments of euphoria once you close your eyes and bask in the escapism of the club."
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