Those of us who decided to stay in town for the holiday weekend were treated to yet another memorable set of shows with a very special band at the 9:30 Club. Sylvan Esso played sold out shows to rabidly enthusiastic audiences at the fabled D.C. venue on back to back nights, further cementing their status as one of the most exciting acts around. Fortunately for us, the synergy and chemistry between Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn is extremely powerful, and this translates to dance music with surprising nuance and emotional depth.
Sylvan Esso burst onto the scene in 2014 with their self-titled album, a succinct and gorgeous statement of intent by the duo. With Meath’s crystalline and haunting voice soaring alongside Sanborn’s naturalistic electronic production, it was lightning in a bottle, and they quickly drew a cult following. They’ve spent the last couple of years touring – together, and in the case of Sanborn, under his Made of Oak solo pseudonym – and it’s evident that this has only served to strengthen and improve what was already an amazing live show. I have seen Sylvan Esso live three times over the years, and this was the band at the peak of their powers: Meath bounced around the stage in platform combat boots, dancing to the beat like a dynamo, as she layered and looped her voice in impeccable harmonies to a spine-tingling effect. Sanborn turned knobs and fiddled with faders until the world around us evaporated – all that was left was the two of them on stage, a snow globe filled with lights, music, and smoke.
It’s also worthwhile noting that Sylvan Esso seem to have avoided the second album slump. What Now is equally as gorgeous and moving as their debut album, with the added benefit of a deeper, more symbiotic relationship between the two principals resulting in standout tracks such as “Die Young”, “Radio”, and “Slack Jaw” – but the truth is there’s simply no filler in their catalogue. There’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing a band you love continue on an upward growth trajectory, and Sylvan Esso yet again lived up to the impossibly high standards they’ve set for themselves along the way. They’re simply one of those bands you’ve got to see before you die (young).