Smile Politely

Smitten for Sylvan Esso

Nick Sanborn is a musical polestar for me. I first noticed him at Pygmalion in 2008 when he was playing with Decibully. I was impressed the six-piece (maybe more, my memory is fuzzy) could fit on the void stage at Canopy and more impressed with their brand of folk rock.

But maybe its untrue to say I noticed Nick that night. When he started playing bass for Headlights after Some Racing, Some Stopping came out, then I definitely paid attention to him individually. It’s had to understate my love for Headlights and that album, in particular, so his participation really made me take note.

After Headlights and Decibully stopped playing, however, Sanborn didn’t drift from my life. I noticed him pop up with The Love Language and really enjoyed the stuff they were playing. Then he moved on to Megafaun and I adored the work they did. With every step of his career, I found more and more reason to appreciate Sanborn as a musician, and zero reason to ignore what he was doing.

Last year, when I first heard about Sylvan Esso, I was skeptical. What they do isn’t like the other bands Sanborn’s been in, and electronic music is a tough sell for me. But I gave it a chance.

I was not disappointed. The album wormed its way into my heart quickly with Sanborn’s sultry beats and his partner Amelia Meath’s soft, lightly accented vocals. It came out right around the time my wife and I went on our honeymoon, and it served as kind of the soundtrack to that trip. She loved it as much as I did and we turned it up on our Bluetooth speaker often.

Since then, Sylvan Esso has continued to endear itself to me as a band. Meath went to the trouble to annotate each of their songs on Genius, giving us a glimpse into her art and her mind; the band deconstructed “H.S.K.T” and built it back up at the Moog Sound Lab; they broke down “Coffee” on Song Exploder; they wrote a song just for Radiolab.

If any other bands are looking for ways to continually prove how awesome you are: follow Sylvan Esso’s lead.

Now they’re coming here, to C-U, for Pygmalion. I’m smitten, completely smitten. I feel like they’re doing this just for me (and don’t tell me otherwise). If you see me at any shows this weekend, I might be whistling “Wolf” as I walk around. Feel free to sing along.

Sylvan Esso performs on Sunday at the Highdive Outdoor Stage as part of The Pygmalion Festival. 

Related Articles