Free Love by Sylvan Esso album review by Katie Tymochenko for Northern Transmissions

Loma Vista Recordings

7.5

Sylvan Esso

Free Love

On their third studio album, electro-pop folk duo Sylvan Esso has created a multifaceted body of work that is simplistic and vulnerable all in one. Free Love, is an album filled with contrasting themes and sounds that is both relatable and thought provoking, while reaching many corners of the electro-pop folk world.

The album begins on a modest note with “What If.” This is the first of many songs on Free Love that focus on a lyrical message with very limited production behind it. While parts of the album radiate sonic enthusiasm and experimentation, both the beginning and the end of Free Love embrace the importance of words.

Guaranteed to get stuck in your head, “Ferris Wheel” is the band’s most exuberant and colourful contribution to the record. The diverse elements of the track are lively and dynamic, and would be a perfect addition to anyone’s disco night dance playlist. The song itself uses a wide variety of worldly sounds which create the illusion of a multi-dimensional landscape for the track to live in.

Things start to get weird on “Numb,” with the song carrying an abundance of sounds and secrets waiting to be discovered. While the track’s busy background and soft spoken lyrics don’t necessarily go hand in hand, the song is still a production guru’s paradise providing something new to be discovered each time you listen to it. Following “Numb,” the band delivers another short song that provides the album with plenty of perspective and honesty. The lyrics of “Free” are deep and personal, and address feelings of self-reflection, love and identity. While the song is primarily a vocal track, the simplicity of Meath’s vocals are loud and clear.

Keeping on trend with contrasting sounds throughout the record, “Frequency” takes a folk driven lyrical narrative and layers the track with interesting production notes and techniques. Sonically, the song feels like the listener is in-between radio frequencies yet the sounds of static feel strangely satisfying. The track is catchy and upbeat which leads perfectly into “Runaway,” continuing the same auditory path which allows band member Nick Sanborn a chance to shine.

Free Love ends on two simplistic notes with “Rooftop Dancing,” and “Make It Easy.” The latter dives into the simplicity of life and makes Sylvan Esso’s decision for an easy conclusion worthwhile. They avoided any complications on this record but still found space for elaborate production techniques and experimentation throughout the entire album. The biggest take away from Free Love, is the deeply sophisticated and intriguing lyrics sung by Amelia Meath. While some of these songs may not have lasting effects on generations to come, the words plastered throughout this record are worth taking a listen too. Sylvan Esso has created an incredibly interesting album that sees unconventional sounds come together to form a type of sonic balance and continuity.

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