No Rules Sandy
By Sylvan Esso
Sylvan Esso are an American electronic pop duo from Durham, North Carolina, formed in 2013. The band consists of singer Amelia Meath and producer Nick Sanborn. They have created their own niche of electro-pop: transparent yet intricate, airy but serious, fond of pop structures yet eager to bend them. No Rules Sandy is Sylvan Esso’s fourth LP via Loma Vista Recordings.
Staying true to the album’s watchwords, the duo has tossed away any loyalty to previous sounds in this one. Packed with elaborately scaffolded production, from the ringing doorbells of Sunburn to the strings that pulsate under Meath’s voice on Your Reality. Interplay – between beats and chords, between unsettling synths and the soft fabric of Meath’s endlessly settling voice – is what Sylvan Esso do best, and No Rules Sandy has it in spades.
The album lifts its name from the track Your Reality on which Meath sings “Let me remember how to live my life / Were there rules originally? / Or are we learning how to be / Surreal but free?” over pulsating synth and strings arrangements as the phrase “no rules Sandy” echoes in the background. In the opening track, Moving, she calmly muses, “How can I be moved / When everything is moving?” over a hissing, scurrying beat, octave-swooping blips and stereo-panning whooshes that keep things spinning. The beautiful Coming Back To You pares everything back to Sylvan Esso’s foundation stones, with radiant-sounding guitar and Meath’s celestial voice.
By Pale Waves
Pale Waves are an English rock band from Manchester, formed in 2014. Their early work is often described as ‘80s-inspired indie rock or synth-pop. However, with their second album, the band have begun to experiment with the pop-punk genre. In Unwanted, they wholeheartedly embrace early 2000s pop-punk, an evolution that has entranced fans. Released via Dirty Hit, the album begins with an instant burst of angsty punk in Lies, the perfect breakup ballad. The song’s edgy-punk tune of choppy guitar and drums sets the tone for a vengeful, yet uplifting anthem. The title-track Unwanted features classic rock guitar notes and revolves around feelings of worthlessness caused by someone you love. The album touches on many other themes such as separation on Without You, finding your tribe on Reasons To Live, standing up for those targeted by bullies on The Hard Way and letting go of someone who destroyed you on Only Problem. The closing track So Sick (Of Missing You) feels like the perfect conclusion. It speaks to the lovesick – one among many examples of Pale Waves’ gift for crafting music that resonates. Packed with 40 minutes of ferocious energy stylistically akin to pop-punk greats such as Avril Lavigne, Paramore and Sum-41 – yet still strikingly original in its own right – Unwanted is a body of work that will certainly live up to fans’ expectations.