Sylvan Esso

Sylvan Esso

Lucy Dacus

Thu, May 25, 2017

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

Higher Ground Ballroom

$24 advance | $26 day of show

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This event is all ages

Sylvan Esso’s sophomore album What Now is out on 4/28 via Loma Vista Recordings. Presale available here: http://merch.ambientinks.com/collections/sylvanesso

Sylvan Esso
Sylvan Esso
Sylvan Esso was not meant to be a band. Rather, Amelia Meath had written a song called "Play It Right" and sung it with her trio Mountain Man. She'd met Nick Sanborn, an electronic producer working under the name Made of Oak, in passing on a shared bill in a small club somewhere. She asked him to scramble it, to render her work his way. He did the obligatory remix, but he sensed that there was something more important here than a one-time handoff: Of all the songs Sanborn had ever recast, this was the first time he felt he'd added to the raw material without subtracting from it, as though, across the unseen wires of online file exchange, he'd found his new collaborator without even looking.

Meath felt it, too. Schedules aligned. Moves were made. And as 2012 slipped into 2013, Sanborn and Meath reconvened in the unlikely artistic hub of Durham, N.C., a former manufacturing town with cheap rent and good food. Sylvan Esso became a band. A year later, their self-titled debut—a collection of vivid addictions concerning suffering and love, darkness and deliverance—arrives as a necessary pop balm, an album stuffed with songs that don't suffer the longstanding complications of that term.

These 10 tunes were realized and recorded in Sanborn's Durham bedroom during the last year, an impressive feat considering the layers of activity and effects that populate them—the dizzyingly crisscrossed harmonies of "Play it Right," the gorgeously incongruous elements of "Wolf," the surreptitiously minimalist momentum of "HSKT." Sanborn's production is fully modern and wonderfully active. He enlists obliterating dubstep stutters and crisp electropop pulses, hazy electrostatic breezes and epinephrine dancefloor turnarounds.

But this isn't a workout in production skills or a demonstration of electronic erudition. Instead, his music syncs seamlessly with Meath's melodies, so that the respective words and beats become a string of ready-to-play singles. The irrepressible "Hey Mami" webs handclaps and harmonies around a flood of bass, a strangely perfect canvas for a tale of dudes hollering at neighborhood tail (and, finally, finding the chivalry not to do so). "Coffee" sparkles and quakes, patiently rising from a muted spell of seasonal affective disorder to a sweet rupture of schoolyard glee. These pop cuts condescend neither to their audience nor their makers. They are sophisticated, but with none of the arrogance that can imply; they are addictive, but with none of the banality that can entail. There is sensuality and sexual depravity, homesickness and wanderlust, nostalgia and immediacy. Sylvan Esso acknowledges that the world is a tumult of complications by giving you a way to sing and dance with those troubles, if not to will them away altogether.

When Meath and Sanborn talk about Sylvan Esso, they come back to context—to how, before this project, they felt that their solo endeavors often felt short of it, as if they were lacking a crucial component. That is no longer a concern. When Meath sings to Sanborn a melody that she's conjured and captured, he almost instinctively knows how to respond. And when he delivers to her the backbone of a wordless beat, she adds lyrical bait where he'd only seen white space. Sylvan Esso represents the fulfillment of their fortuitous encounter by, once again, linking parts that too often come stripped of their counterparts. Here, motion comes with melody. Words come with ideas. And above all, pop comes back with candor.

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Sylvan Esso’s sophomore album What Now is out on 4/28 via Loma Vista Recordings. Presale available here: http://merch.ambientinks.com/collections/sylvanesso
Lucy Dacus
Lucy Dacus's 'No Burden' is full of surprises -- sharp lyrical observations, playful turns of musical phrase, hooks that'll embed themselves in your frontal lobe for days. But the most surprising thing about this album might be the fact that it's a debut; it has a keen sense of self about it, and it nearly glows from the self-possession held by the woman at its core.

The 21-year-old Dacus grew up in Richmond; she was adopted at a young age, an experience that informed her curious, openhearted songwriting. "When my parents were explaining what adoption was -- which was very early on in my childhood -- they always said that my birthmother thought I was worthwhile even though she couldn't be my mom," she says. "And so from essentially infancy, I was taught that life was innately worthwhile because a bunch of people had worked together to set me up with one.

"Every other philosophy of mine has been built on that foundation," she continues. "Humans want this experience for each other; there has to be some reason why. I seem to always end up trying to write and understand how we can live the most worthwhile life, and therefore how we hold each other up from getting there."

Dacus started playing around Richmond while in college, opening for local acts and eventually meeting Jacob Blizard, a guitarist who invited her to make a record for a college project of his. 'No Burden,' which originally came out in February on the Richmond label EggHunt Records, opens with the forthright, almost brutally honest "I Don't Wanna Be Funny Anymore," the last song Dacus wrote before the album's day-long recording session at Starstruck Studios in Nashville. Dacus delivers scalpel-sharp observations about resisting pigeonholing over chunky guitars, ticking off ideals of femininity and youth until the track's not-quite-resolution.

These themes extend to the lyrics of songs like "Strange Torpedo," a whirling portrait of a friend whose "bunch of bad habits" who, Dacus sings, has "been falling for so long... [and hasn't] hit anything solid yet." "I've been that friend watching a loved one do what they know is bad for them and not understanding why," says Dacus. The song offers a simple message: "'I love you, why don't you love you? You're the one in your body so you get to choose what to do with it, but if I were you I'd treat me differently.'"

The rest of 'No Burden,' which was produced by Collin Pastore, puts Dacus's voice center stage, allowing the glinting poetry of her lyrics to shine even more brightly. "Trust," which Dacus wrote in late 2013, showcases her alone with her guitar, her faint vibrato floating over strummed chords as she sings of self-redemption. And the diptych "Dream State..." and ."..Familiar Place," which revolve around Dacus repeating "Without you, I am surely the last of our kind/ Without you, I am surely the last of my kind," capture disappointment and loss in a jaw-dropping way; the music trembles around her while her voice stays steady, anticipating whatever might come next.

'No Burden' is a forthright, disarmingly catchy statement. And while it's a sterling debut, it only hints at the potential possessed by this passionate, thoughtful young woman. - Maura Johnston
Venue Information:
Higher Ground Ballroom
1214 Williston Road
South Burlington, VT, 05403
http://www.highergroundmusic.com/