The album art for Sylvan Esso's self-titled debut

Sylvan Esso

Sylvan Esso

From the first track, the debut record from Sylvan Esso captures imagine with densely-layered synth tracks drenched with luscious vocal work.

This is my third-favourite record of the year. Every single track on this is sublime and catchy, and even if Sylvan Esso isn’t saying a lot, it feels like they have a lot to say.

Singer Amelia Meath’s dreamy voice and strange, but fascinating style takes off immediately in Hey Mami, but I think it really takes off with Wolf and Dress. Coffee and Play It Right are other standouts.

Producer Nick Sanborn, the other half of this duo, serves up a delicious serving of sparse synth tracks throughout the record, but it’s really in the way he matches the instrumentation (which often sound dark and melodramatic) with Meath’s voice. He’ll often layer her voice and use it as a backing track, letting Meath play off herself.

In a lot of ways, this isn’t too dissimilar from some of Timbaland’s production work — half the instruments are organic, and the other half are purely electronic. The organic instruments are almost entirely a cappella, or vocally driven. Despite the record being almost entirely synths-driven (and often very dark), it feels natural and warm as a result. The album is dense and intricate, but also sparse.

This stands up with Foxes’ Glorious and St. Vincent’s latest record for the best of 2014 for me, and I couldn’t recommend Sylvan Esso’s eponymous debut more. In working together to find widely-appealing sonic styles that both Meath and Sanborn are comfortable with, the duo has stumbled upon something original and impossibly endearing.