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Sylvan Esso - Free Love (Album Review)

Tuesday, 29 September 2020 Written by Sophie Williams

Photo: Matthew Tyler Priestley

The essence of Sylvan Esso’s music is found in a sense of unity. It’s a theme explored with regularity and intensity on the shapeshifting, utterly mesmerising ‘Free Love’, having already underpinned their live album and accompanying concert film ‘WITH’, a project born from the heady emotions shared with their live band on tour in 2019.

The duo—lead vocalist Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn—use their third LP to dig further into these fragmented memories of togetherness, and in doing so provide a captivating insight into their world, where the nights are endless and the love boundless.

A 10-track collection of featherweight, freewheeling indie-dance confections, ‘Free Love’ makes its future floor-filling aspirations explicit. These songs urge us to be open and let loose, regardless of what may currently be happening outside our windows.

Confident, seductive and impossibly catchy, lead single Ferris Wheel is a bubbling caffeine overload that finds Sanborn’s production at its most restless and intriguing, while Meath’s vocals—light, breezy, buoyant—cartwheel and leap over dizzying panpipes.

Its template of lolloping synth hooks and flickering beats also forms the backbone of the lilting Numb, while the understated yet effective Free is shadowy and minimalistic, content in its aura of reverb.

In its most joyous moments, such as the gently funky Rooftop Dancing, ‘Free Love’ paints pictures that thrill in their intimacy. “Slow-mo throwing my body in the air / Making the jump from ledge to ledge / Long hair flying, we’re out of breath,” Meath recalls, as the percussion begins to unravel. More compelling still is Frequency, a quietly romantic ode to falling for a radio DJ from the remote perspective of a listener: “And I can hear her for a while / And how her voice bends as she smiles”.

Such moments colour ‘Free Love’ with hope, as though Sylvan Esso want to remind us that, at times like these, joy can be found in the small and unexpected. It’s a beautiful, textured, optimistic record, and one to hold onto as you dance through the storm.


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