Sylvan Esso's new album What Now feels urgent and relevant to this particular time in history. It asks where do we go as a culture when we're standing at what feels like a precipice. At its core, What Now is an album created against the backdrop of 2016, which means that it is inherently grappling with the chaos of a country seething inward on itself. Time in the lion's den gave way to seared indictments of the music industry and narcissistic mass media culture. When the present seems unstable and the future is a pastiche of foreboding it can be natural to turn to the past, to search for some solace in the skipping CDs and rewinding VHS tapes of one's childhood, but you can never go back again.
Never one to shy away from duality, Amelia Meath muses true love as an unavoidable deterrent for a death-wish; it's a record about falling in love and learning that it won't save you. It's an album about meeting your own personal successes but feeling the fizzling embers of the afterglow rather than the roar of achievement; about the crushing realization that no progress may ever be permanent. There are no grand exits or Hollywood endings, life just goes on. Perhaps it is in this truth that we can begin to extend connectivity to one another, free from our own need for narrative. This isn't just pop music that refuses to be dumb, anymore, this is protest music that refuses to not be personal.
These songs were the product of sheer alchemy; Amelia's effortlessly acrobatic melodic reflections complimented Nick Sandborn's dynamic compositions in ways that were as unlikely as they were undeniable.