MAGNET’s #9 Album Of 2017: Sylvan Esso’s “What Now”

It’s fun to fall down the wormhole of Sylvan Esso remixes, which are essentially reimagined twists—sometimes by others, just as often by themselves (see the improved perfection of the Echo Mountain Sessions)—on a reimagined original. Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn’s chicken-and-egg ensemble is unique in modern pop music. More akin to a self-sampling hip-hop team than an indie-rock duo, they might be better considered “premix” artists. If the eponymous 2014 debut offered a bionic/chameleonic glimpse at the metrosexual Mountain Man makeover, this sequel is where they shed their skin, reemerging stronger and yet more vulnerable (i.e., more human) than ever. The album’s whiz-bang production is a consistent kick (jump, twist), but it’s really on those distilled Echo Mountain visual essays that true love takes hold, in large part due to the ace supporting players: Wye Oak dime Jenn Wasner on bass/keys, Mountain Goat Matt Douglas on (what else?) horns. It’s an acoustic read on a digital upsample of a low-res capture, which makes no sense but works like a charm. Just like the band itself. —Noah Bonaparte Pais