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CD of The Week

Week of 9/28/20

    Sylvan Esso - Free Love (Loma Vista)

    Over the course of three albums, Sylvan Esso has mastered the art of wringing the largest amount of feelings from the smallest setup possible. The electronic beats and bleeps of Nick Sanborn provide the perfect bed for Amelia Meath's honeyed vocals. On their third studio album Free Love, the pair craft 10 more songs of emotional heft that you can equally dance or daydream to.

    Much of Free Love is an ode to the joy of moving your body, as Meath is an experienced, trained dancer. On "Train," she sings, "Nothing in my brain / Pop music makes me go insane / Four on the floor / And the tracks keep changing." The skittering "Numb" and self-explanatory "Rooftop Dancing" also are made for experiencing live. And lead single "Ferris Wheel" tells a story of a sweaty summer crush set to the danciest groove on the record. However, the lovely, haunting and sparse "Free" is actually the core of the record, giving it its name.

    Sadly, much of Free Love also plays as a soundtrack to the summer that should've been. "Rooftop Dancing" vividly describes a hot time and summer in the city. In "Ferris Wheel," Meath specifically sings, "It's the summer, got a lot to prove / Can't wait to do it, can you?" Unfortunately, waiting was all many of us could do over the past few months.

    After making their sound as big as it can be for the recent live album WITH, the pair pulled back to their basic setup as a two-piece once again for Free Love. Sylvan Esso continue to get maximum emotion from their minimalist sound. Sanborn's beats are never cold and sterile, as he adds a humanity to his electronics. Especially as the band leaves in little extra moments, such as a crackly fuzz, vocal samples or studio chatter around the edges of the songs.

    Their last album, What Now, ended with the looping "Rewind," and Free Love also urges you to return to the music immediately. "Make It Ends" ends with the lyrical instruction to "play it again," followed by a brief moment before Amelia returns with a satisfied "cool."

    All these dance songs were clearly meant for the stage and live crowds and we can only hope that they'll be performed in person someday. In the meantime, throw your own dance party at home to the tune of Free Love.

    Review by Joey O.

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