As a listener of music, what makes a band or artist your favorite? Is it the ones that fit into a particular area of musical proportion, or is the ones that test the musical boundaries? As a musician, one is constantly engaging in the art of experimentation. It could simply be vocal diction, how one pronounces words, and its intensity. It could be challenging the status quo of timing through chord progressions on the piano and guitar. The power of alteration in music keeps the musical mind afloat. Artists such as “Prince” and “The Beatles” were able to embody that nature throughout their musical journeys. It does not stop at just them. Through the ever-expanding world of music, we as listeners constantly discover artists that toy with the idea of experimentation. One particular artist is the American band “Sylvan Esso”.
Listen to “Sylvan Esso” Live on NPR Tiny Desk Now!
Distinct and known for her unique vocal chops, lead singer “Amelia Meath” began her musical expedition as a member of her trio band “Mountain Man”. Through haunting a cappella texture, the band’s womanly perspective of traditional American folk music stood out like no other! “Mountain Man” was also known for their infusion of vintage Appalachian sound. After the solid success of the trio group, Meath connected with electronic music producer and band member of American psychedelic folk band, “Megafaun”, “Nick Sanborn”. Through various collaborations and ending an epic tour with Canadian indie-pop singer “Feist”, Meath and Sanborn began recording a solid album remotely from Sanborn’s bedroom.
Naming the band after a phone game “Swords and Sworcery”, “Sylvan Esso” released their debut self-titled album May 2014 of folktronica sounds. Folktronica is a genre that is a mixture of traditional folk elements with the digital atmosphere of electronic music. With a heavy undertone of acoustic instruments such as guitar, dance rhythms, and hip-hop interpretation keeps the pace throughout this experimental genre. The sound became prevalent in the music scene by the English electronic band “Ultramarine” in 1993. The album “Every Man and Women Is A Star” portrays the essence of folktronica, mixing eclectic folk sound with modern electronic energy. “Sylvan Esso” reached major success with their first album. The project reached No.39 on Billboard paired with being No.7 on the “Independent Albums”. Performing at music festivals such as Coachella and The Firefly Music Festival in 2015, the band has become almost a festival musical statement for all things amazing. Receiving amazing reviews in the US, the band traveled and performed various events and venues around the world including Berlin, Amsterdam, and Toronto.
After the huge success of the first album, then band set to restructure musical barriers and experiment with broader vibrant sounds. In April 2017, the second studio album “What Now” arrived on the indie scene winning a Grammy nomination for “Best Dance/Electronic Album”. Through the success of the second album, “Sylvan Esso” performed at events such as Ferropolis in Germany and the Citadel Festival in London.
The song “Hey Mami” (one of my favorite songs off of the album) was named No.1 song of 2014 by Paste Magazine. This statement I agree with wholeheartedly. The song has a close and special place in my fragile heart because this song became an anthem amongst my artsy friend group of San Francisco. Through simplistic recorded sounds and in-depth harmonies, the track slowly melts and blends into the electronic world. This song is also a prime example of what it means in the statement: “Less is More”. If understood correctly through one’s ear canal, the listener would notice that there is not much going on in terms of production. There are musical brilliance and perfection through an instrumental sound that is simple and easy-going in nature.
Listen to “Hey Mami by “Sylvan Esso” Now!
“Sentiments the same but the pair of feet change”. In the song “Coffee”, the experimentation of sound collides in such an effortless way. The track contains symphonic sounds that ease the tension of life’s worries. Through a gentle buzz of caffeinated musical goodness, the sound poetically portrays the sensual movement of belonging and togetherness.
Listen to “Coffee” by Sylvan Esso” Now!
“When I’m slamming in my dancing shoes. Asphalt’s hot, and my knees all bruised. It’s the summer, got a lot to prove. Can’t wait to do it, can you?” On their latest album “Free Love” released in September of 2020, the project is an evolution of sounds that have gradually progressed since the beginning of the band’s electronic stardom. The album gives a strong collection of songs that distinctly create an in-depth idea of perception when it comes to the value of love. One of my favorite songs on the album comes in a video game, almost arcade-inspired form. In the track “Ferris Wheel” the track is a vibe like no other. The music video truly shows the essence and movement in which the song embodies. The carefree mentality of this song just makes you want to move your body to the sounds of freedom.
Listen to “Sylvan Esso” “Ferris Wheel Now!
“Sylvan Esso” manages to create a world of experiences through heir dynamic music. It is fascinating how the sounds of folk and psychedelic musical waves and come together or mold, in such a creative way. Whether you are studying for that stressful exam or just hanging out with your friends on a cold winter night (accompanied by a warm pumpkin soup of course) “Sylvan Esso” will bring the sounds that will ease the night.
Photos: Shutterstock / Photomontage: Martina Advaney
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