Music Review: Sylvan Esso subverts and embraces the pop world on a brilliant second album

Sylvan Esso’s self-titled debut—one of 2014’s best records—felt like a gorgeous click, the sound of two musicians previously focused on vastly different types of music who somehow fit together like sonic puzzle pieces. Nick Sanborn had been making beat-heavy soundscapes as Made Of Oak when he met Amelia Randall Meath, a member of traditionalist indie-folk trio Mountain Man. Her otherworldly singing and his sideways beats came together quickly in an album highlighted by some stunning singles, particularly the mesmerizing trio of “Coffee,” “Hey Mami,” and “Play It Right.”

But if that album was the sound of new love or blooming musical chemistry, the perfectly titled What Now grows into something deeper, smarter, more comfortable, more intimate, and more cohesive. Where Sylvan Esso collected some great songs, What Now feels like a statement of purpose, a duo stretching into the shape it was meant to be and …

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