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Sylvan Esso’s sophomore album, What Now, is the sound of a band truly fulfilling the potential and promise of their debut album. Everything has evolved - the production is bolder, the vocals are more intense, the melodies are brighter, and the songs are that much more glorious. But it’s also a record that was made in 2016 - which means it is inherently grappling with the chaos of a country seething inward on itself, the voices of two people nestled in studios in around the country who were bemused by what they looked out and saw. It’s an album that is both political and personal, and blurs the line between the two – What Now describes the inevitable low that comes after every high, fulfillment tempered by the knowledge that there is no real end point. Likewise, feeling the pinch of the election, the gender bathroom wars of their home state of NC, and more, “what now” asks where we go as a culture when standing at what feels like a precipice. It’s a record about falling in love and learning that it won’t save you; about the oversharing of information and the fine line between self-awareness and narcissism; 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 is ever permanent. But more than any of this, it’s an album full of the finest songs this band has ever written, produced immaculately, sang incredibly, to articulate our collective undercurrents of anxiety and joy.
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