Thursday, March 27, 2014

Watch: Sylvan Esso - "Coffee"

                                                   (photo by DL Anderson)

One of the highlights of my SXSW experience was without a doubt getting the chance to see North Carolina duo Sylvan Esso perform. After making the terrible decision to sleep on their tunes when some of my favorite artists were advising all their fans to do otherwise, I dug in based on a pretty noncommittal suggestion from a friend. "Have you heard of Sylvan Esso? I really like their song 'Coffee'" she practically almost shrugged out and yet that was apparently just the sort of thing I need to light a fire under me - I checked out "Coffee" and was enamored, I checked out "Play It Right" and fell absolutely in love.

One of the most charming things about Sylvan Esso's performance is just how into the music they're creating they get. It's the sort of thing absolute necessary to make an electronic-based performance worthwhile and yet, the twosome went above and beyond in that category. Amelia Randall Meath utterly dominates all free space with her killer and unpredictable dance moves; enough to evoke a chorus of "ooh"s and "aah"s while she dipped and rolled to Nick Sanborn's infectious beats. So it's rather unsurprising, considering not only the lyrics but also how ingrained in the duo's live show it is that the focus of their video for "Coffee" would be on dance.

It starts unassumingly enough - the camera sweeps and follows Sanborn into a dance hall where a night of line dancing is taking place. After a bit of warm up everyone's having a good time and Meath and Sanborn blend right in. And just as quickly the scene changes to a house party in full swing - there's couples kissing, attendees passed out, and no one seems to really want to be there. Meath dances but her heart's not really in it while Sanborn's in the kitchen, downing a beer and barely participating in the conversation that's occurring. Perhaps the most unexpected source of enjoyment is the last segment - an sort of modern sock hop, the fun of the contra dance returns in earnest and then Sylvan Esso deploys its secret weapon - Amelia's badass moves. Despite being the camera's focus, the multitude of people paying her no mind makes the video's message abundantly clear - when you're doing what you want for the hell of it, there's no stopping your good time. A couple of good friends can help but ultimately the moment of pure elation comes final dancefloor chaos. There's an order in Meath and her friends' choreographed sequence but all those people milling about just out of focus are having the time of their lives and really, Amelia probably is too - cracking a smile during the most rigorous part of her dancing right before the cut.

If you can catch them on tour, I strongly, strongly recommend it. Dates here, and you can preorder the self-titled debut record out May 13th on Partisan Records.

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