Today’s Song: Sylvan Esso’s Quiet Reprieve “Slack Jaw”

Sylvan Esso © Kendall Bailey
Sylvan Esso © Kendall Bailey
Electro-pop duo, Sylvan Esso, perfectly render the illogical human dilemma “Everything is awesome — and I am still sad” making “Slack Jaw” the ideal song to listen to when you need to gain perspective or ground yourself back in reality.
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Stream: “Slack Jaw” – Sylvan Esso

I’m a sucker for songs that astound with simplicity. There’s courage in being straightforward nothing to distract or detract from the point. Sylvan Esso, an electronic pop duo from Durham, North Carolina, singer Amelia Meath (Mountain Man) and producer Nick Sanborn (Megafaun, Made of Oak) create a spectrum of pop music with both wit and wisdom, intricacies and simplicities so many rhythms and harmonies. But they really nail the kind of sound I crave in my introspective moments: “Slack Jaw”, a track of off Sylvan Esso’s sophomore album What Now, is soft, quiet and absolutely awe inspiring.

“Slack Jaw” cuts to the chase there are no frills or embellishments. Meath’s voice soothingly sings thought-provoking lyrics and Sanborn’s production understated, yet in appropriate support of the simple vocal melody. The lyrics encourage you to reflect on your own strength, and the understated electronic elements energize your soul. Low, humming synths, velvety chords matching the melody of Meath’s vocals, and the looped glitch of snap and static create a soft canvas for the lyrics to paint on top of. The electronic flair and synthesized harmonies give mild Imogen Heap vibes.

Watch: “Slack Jaw (Mountain Echo Sessions)” –  Sylvan Esso

“Slack Jaw” perfectly renders the illogical human dilemma: “Everything is awesome — and I am still sad” (Sylvan Esso, NPR 2017) making it the ideal song to listen to when you need to gain perspective or ground yourself back in reality. One of the more blunt lyric phrases where a contrast between metaphor and literal stands out at the end of what could be considered the chorus:

There’s so many rhythms and harmonies
And I’m walking the dog back

The quick move from a heady lyric that paints a beautiful image of how intricate life is to a straight forward lyric describing a tedious part of our day mimics the way we exist. Sometimes it’s helpful to gain perspective and think about life from a very philosophical place, but other times it’s important to appreciate the beauty in the mundane.

Presenting an acknowledgement of wholeness, a declaration of being enough  I’ve got all the parts I’ve wished for / I’ve got everything I need “Slack Jaw” recognizes the fire in the soul that keeps us going even when the going gets tough. Without sacrificing a glimmer of hope to submerge in melancholy melodrama, or depth in it’s lack of decoration, the song is tender and truthful. Sylvan Esso demonstrate the height of their artistry and the power in a modest melody accompanying an honest message with their take on a quiet reprieve “Slack Jaw”.

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Sylvan Esso - What Now

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