The eponymous debut album from the Durham, North Carolina duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn, the former a soulful crooner and songwriter best known as a member of Appalachian indie folk trio Mountain Man and the latter a talented electronic producer and bass player for country-psych rockers Megafaun, couldn't sound any further from the duo's flagship projects. Emitting a heady and evocative blend of breezy, late-night laptop-pop and glitchy metropolitan folk, Sylvan Esso's sophisticated confections fall somewhere between the fractured tabletop buzz of Tune-Yards and the breezy indie pop cinematics of Feist. Standout cuts like "Hey Mami," "H.S.K.T.," and "Coffee" are a tad dark, a bit sexy, and undeniably hypnotic, but they're also accessible (and surprisingly danceable), due in large part to the duo's Southern locale and Meath's laid-back delivery and penchant for penning coy and colorful lyrics. Elsewhere, the seductive "Dreamy Bruises" prowls about on a sleek, arpeggiated Grimes-approved groove, the sparse, gospel-like closer "Come Down" skillfully pairs Mountain Man austerity with ambient pop, and the appropriately named "Wolf" builds to a howling chorus on the strength of a fat synth line, a spare acoustic guitar, and a flurry of ghostly electronic pings, but it's the aforementioned "Coffee" that provides the perfect summation of the duo's strengths. It's both club- and cafe-ready, artsy, cool, and elusive enough to woo the Williamsburg contingency, yet soulful and lightly sweetened with warm Southern honey.
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger