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CD of The Week

Week of 8/15/22

    Sylvan Esso - No Rules Sandy (Loma Vista / Concord)

    In September 2020, Sylvan Esso released Free Love, which should have served as the soundtrack for a summer that was sadly lost to year one of the pandemic. Even though Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn have their own cache of keyboards, samplers and computers at their disposal to make their minimalist music, the pair ended up in Los Angeles and surprised themselves by making a whole new album, No Rules Sandy.

    Their fourth album kicks off with “Moving,” jumping you right into the fray with its clattering, mystifying beats. It almost feels like a B-side from Radiohead's Amnesiac era. The disorientation is bolstered by the question “How can I be moved / When everything is moving?”

    “Echo Party” finds Meath raving about raves but it also may be an elegy for those who aren’t dancing with her anymore: “There's a lot of people dancing downtown / Yeah, we all fall down / But some stay where they got dropped / It's an echo party ringing all around.” Dance music of the ‘90s is an influence here as well as in “Didn’t Care,” an ode to Meath and Sanborn’s relationship with a nod to the earlier days of the band when they didn’t openly talk about being a couple, but “now everyone / Can see us / And now everyone / Knows our love.”

    “Sunburn” is the obvious single as it gets into the groove and BPMs of their best hits, while the synthesized sampled string section (or something similar) of “Your Reality” feels like it was inspired by their full-band WITH performances from a few years ago.

    At the end of the record, the tempo finally slows down for haunting “Coming Back to You” bringing out an acoustic guitar under Meath’s double-tracked vocals, placing her voice in a familiar setting a la her folkier other projects.

    No Rules Sandy finds Sylvan Esso throwing out their previous rules of writing and recording but also some of their pop hooks that made the band more than just an electronic act built for the dance floor. The new tracks blur together and its in-between bits of audio and odd transitional tracks make No Rules Sandy feel like one big megamix, However, the band kept one rule – never lose sight of the humanity and heart beating within their beats.
    Review by Joey O.

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