Single Review – Sylvan Esso – There are many ways to Say I Love You

Simple and oh so sweet, duo Sylvan Esso’s latest single ‘There are many ways to Say I Love You’ has to be the most gentle track that you could possibly find this winter. A cover of a classic from PBS show ‘Mr Rodgers Neighborhood’ although granted perhaps not the first idea you would necessarily think of to cover if you didn’t happen to grow up in America sometime since the late 70’s this beautiful track came about thanks to the pair’s friend Martin Dosh who asked them to cover a song for a puppet musical tribute he was working on. Though the tracks possible childhood sickly sweetness is kept at a pleasant level within Amelia Meath’s vocal warmth. Normally an electronic duo this single see’s no hint of synth beats from producer Nick Sanborn but instead focuses on the North Carolina’s folk side.

Hayley Miller

Sylvan Esso – What Now Review 


The North Carolina electronic duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn make up Sylvan Esso. After a generally positive response to their ethereal and subtle self titled debut, dubbed ‘Folktronica’ in 2014, they have released their attempt at the difficult second album. What Now was released at the end of last month and the duo have already teased a bolder and pop/dance influenced sound with singles such as Radio released last year. It looks to be a braver sound that the duo are embarking on and they have a lot more to say too. The problem is everyone thinks they’re being bold by their second album so is their substance to this beneath the surface?

 ‘Die Young’ is a more controlled sound with an element of depth though no less infectious. Here they have you hanging off bold and opaque electronica with light whirring sounds in between. It is a way of emboldening their sound whilst also slowing things down a bit. As they sound progresses, charged 80’s percussion slams in the background as the component parts of the song gradually to come together for a satisfying and rich conclusion. Excellently produced and arranged and expertly delivered. ‘Radio’ is a pulsating piece of Pop music with a bouncing bass beat that forms the foundation for a shimmering array of electronica. Amelia Meath balances the task of controlling a driving Pop song with the same consistent vocals albeit with a few shots of power to guide the song through sheers drops and shifts in sound. The lyrics tell of falling for the desperate and flawed media as everyone does whatever they can for a piece of fame and where those who do can even end up with unbridled power in one way or another. ‘Just Dancing’ opens with popping beats and deliberately contrary tuned vocals. As the verse transitions to the chorus, the instrumentation falls away,  whilst at the second time of asking, the song bursts into a purposeful phase. The synths become more prominent, the vocals more powerful. The song comes to fruition in an unusual way, but it’s worth the wait for even more electric Pop.

‘Kick Jump Twist’ opts for a light and sparked out set of popping beats with Meath’s naive vocals for a soft and simply nice piece of music. This is distrurbed during the chorus as the sound is dropped into a grinding, distorted set of drops and from there the song’s purpose is to serve these bold changes of sound that are just as stark once they end as thy are when they begin. Shimmering electronica opens ‘Signals’ before a dull beat acts as a base from which Meath can deploy her vocals. The spliced effect rhythm and the assertive electronic instrumentation command the songs appeal here, though it did seem to lose its way half way to its conclusion, before driving the song home to a well executed finish. ‘Rewind’ closes the album and has similar features and it is here that these ideas may have been applied a little too heavily across the album. Those monotone beats arrive when you expect them too and whilst this song in isolation is another good track, in the course of an album that has already had similar and better moments; you end up hoping that rearrange their instrumentation somewhat. It is a sound that works though and for the most part is well produced, delivered and infectious. 

Sylvan Esso – What Now = 8/10

Owen Riddle 

Future Islands – The Far Field Review 


Future Islands – The Far Field

Pre-Letterman performance, the Future Islands were a little known clan with three albums of floaty synth pop under their belt. One iconic, soon-to-be-viral performance later, and the Baltimore trio completely explode. Seasons (Waiting On You) went on to become the ‘best song of 2014’ for several media networks like Pitchfork and Consequence of Sound, just one song from Singles – the album that landed them in the top 40 in both America and the UK. They now had to tackle an album to tail their breakthrough tracklist, resulting in the unflustered synth pop force of The Far Field.

Huge success doesn’t seem to have withered Future Islands’ winning formula of synth-heavy backing tracks. The ghostly aura that wavers in the background of Aladdin is launched by the synths, while they bolster the hurtling percussion in Ran, only to emphasise the song’s speed, which ties perfectly into the title of the song. Having said that, William Cashion plays a large part in The Fair Field, with prickles of bass playing the starring role in tracks such as Cave, Through the Roses and Black Rose. Though their musical style hasn’t faltered, the pressure of their recent achievement looms in the lyrics. Through the Roses has been described by frontman Samuel Herring as “a suicide song”, the theme of loneliness taking its fateful grip on this forlorn number, despite Herring having “reached all of [his] goals”. In the midst of the robotic notions – especially strong in the likes of North Star, Time On Her Side and Candles – it is this emotive highpoint that gives the album soul and vigour– not, as I first figured, the constant wrath of lively synths, which actually loses its gusto towards the end of the album. Each song begins with a new electro shading, but the similar feel of each introduction keeps the album tight and flowing. The similar tempos of each song could either be interpreted in the same vein, keeping to its great flow, with the sprightly momentum making it a great soundtrack to any road-trip movie, or a little tiresome too.

There’s no denying Herring is a spectacular vocalist. His silvery crooning works wonders against the mechanical backdrops, not only providing the album’s greatest asset, but also arguably the strongest element of Future Islands’ whole repertoire. The passion that it decorates each track with, and is evident in the performances such as the striking Letterman one, is what has truly got the band to where they are now. Extra beautiful vocals come to fruition in Shadows, which features Debbie Harry’s vocal expertise. Their warbles are a fantastic match.

In this dynamic uniting of sublime synth and folky trill, Future Islands have put forward a pretty impressive successor to Singles. Expressive both instrumentally and lyrically, sung with deep and recognisable feeling, The Far Field is sound in every way, but it is something that, despite Debbie Harry’s brilliant intervening, cannot be revitalised in its unchanging direction.

Future islands – The Far Field: 7/10

Eleanor Chivers

Single Review – Sylvan Esso – Die Young

The North Carolina electronic duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn make up Sylvan Esso. After a generally positive response to their ethereal and subtle self titled debut, dubbed ‘Folktronica’ in 2014, they have a second album set for release. What Now is due on April 28th and the duo have already teased a bolder and pop/dance influenced sound with singles such as Radio released last year. ‘Die Young’ is a more controlled sound with an element of depth though no less infectious. Here they have you hanging off bold and opaque electronica with light whirring sounds in between. It is a way of emboldening their sound whilst also slowing things down a bit. As they sound progresses, charged 80’s percussion slams in the background as the component parts of the song gradually to come together for a satisfying and rich conclusion. Excellently produced and arranged and expertly delivered. 

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Ryan Adams – Do You Still Love Me?

Ryan Adams has made it clear what the inspiration behind his sixteenth studio album was; his divorce. Now the album title of Prisoner is more pointed and the release date on the next release date after Valentines Day becomes a feature of what will seemingly be an emotionally charged album. If that wasn’t proof enough, then the lead single ‘Do You Still Love Me?’ hammers the message home. The oscillating organs that open the track are the foundation for punching riffs and Ryan’s rough-edged vocals. Musically, the song has a late 1980’s stadium rock feel to it, almost like his near namesake Bryan Adams. The dramatics are taken to another level with a tearing guitar solo from which the power of the track extends. Ryan Adams has never been one to experiment with new sounds, but here he really delivers the style better than anyone else and with a deep lyrical content. Should make for an interesting album at least.

Owen Riddle