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Sylvan Esso, the duo born from the unlikely pairing of folk singer Amelia Meath and electronic producer Nick Sanborn, prefaced their self-titled debut with the single 'Coffee', easily one of the best songs of the year. The song's melancholic musings are chilly and lonely yet warm and sultry. The dreamy mixture promised for an exciting, genre-defying debut.

The album opener 'Hey Mami' starts off with ambient sound from city streets, claps and soft vocals chanting about the culture of catcalling. There's a sense of raw anticipation behind Meath's vocals, a purposeful void. Then a dubstep beat drops, almost like a curtain falling onstage to reveal the main attraction. In that moment I knew that one single was not enough to prep me for this debut.

Just as my surprise was starting to set in, 'Dreamy Bruises' comes in stomping with droning synths interlaced with sensual vocals while 'Could I Be' plays with swinging hooks wrapped around distorted bass. The combination of smooth folky elements with crisp electronic beats is at once striking in its oddness, but also in how well Meath and Sanborn pull it off.

'Wolf' is perhaps where the group's sound is the fullest, where the listener gets simultaneously swept up into a dreamscape of beautiful acoustics while being awakened by rumbling, prickly synths. Loops of Meath's vocals coo around her tantalizing melodies in album midpoint 'Dress', honing in on the song's complex, but complementing layers--proving to be one of the duo's many strongpoints.

Sylvan Esso is about the presence of contradictions, from the artists' unique production pairing to lyrical themes about life. Some songs entice with sexual undertones, others play with childlike imagery, but 'H.S.K.T.' does both. As the chorus repeats "head, shoulders, knees and toes," later lines echo "don't you wanna get some." The bouncy, club-ready beat is a high point in terms of the group's pop accessibility.

Following in the line of contradiction, the softer, purring 'Coffee' necessarily balances the electronic-heavy first half of the album. It's the only time we clearly hear a male voice, although it still takes a backseat to Meath's earthy tones. While gorgeous and haunting, it seems surprising that it was chosen as the band's single, as it's the least representative of their sound as a whole.

A wave of warm, pulsating electronica from 'Uncatena' washes the thought away as my attention is snapped back to a story of desire and relationships. Twinkling 'oohs' set the stage for 'Play It Right', dancing between the rising melody and dark bass dips. Originally recorded for Meath's band Mountain Man, 'Play It Right' planted the seeds for Sylvan Esso's formation after Sanborn was asked to remix the song. A fortuitous encounter indeed, as the debut exhibits how well the two complement one another.

In an age of abundant opportunities for music discovery and shortening attention spans, not only do artists have to work harder to grab our attention, but it's even rarer for them to hold onto it. Sylvan Esso manages to do both, with a solid debut that's both captivating and understated.

The album closes with appropriately titled 'Come Down', a sparse and intimate song with earnest vocals and harmonies that ease the reader out of an intoxicating album-induced daze.

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