I listen to most of my music through streaming services like Spotify and Soundcloud. What I love most about Spotify is that it guides me as I explore new music but still gives me ultimate control over what I listen to. Spotify has numerous curated playlists, which are regularly updated with new songs for different genres. As the user, I can listen to Release Radar, a playlist of the newest hit songs from all genres, and then immediately move to a specific playlist that consists only of indie/alternative songs by artists that I am familiar with as well as plenty of new ones.
I've been a fan of the indie/alternative genre for a long time. I realized that, as opposed to the overwhelming amount of Top 40 artists cranking out pop hits, there are groups out there constantly trying to experiment with music and create a sound that is unique to them and only them. One group that has been able to consistently test the boundaries of songwriting and music production/composition is Sylvan Esso.
I first began listening to Sylvan Esso a few days after they released their eponymous first album by chance, as I was playing my Discover Weekly playlist (a Spotify playlist that provides the user with 30 new songs based on their musical taste). The song "Coffee" caught my attention because it sounded so bare as if it was a demo track that was released as a fully mixed song.
I explored the other songs by Sylvan Esso, and realized that this was a gold mine of talent that I doubt many would ever hear about because they had such a niche sound. Their songwriting and composition talents were beyond anything I'd heard before because they made each song an experience rather than just a song. They could make you feel bubbly and cheerful one minute and then have you feeling depressed the next. You could be bopping your head at the first track, and by the end of the album, you're left petrified in your seat. Sylvan Esso was able to harness the most important characteristic of any work of art: honesty.
Photo by: Bridge909
Each song that Sylvan Esso released had a sense of purity and authenticity that is lost in a lot of the Top 40 songs that fill the airwaves. Sylvan Esso were able to reach a pretty high level of success because of their regular features on different NPR music shows such as "All Songs Considered" and "Tiny Desk Concerts". Their newest album released a few weeks ago, and each song was a true attempt at making a new sound whether with a new instrument or a different way to use vocal sound effects.
Over the past week, the group has been releasing a video each day to create a Visual EP called "The Echo Mountain Sessions". Each song is a fully produced piece that has a stripped-down feel that makes is feel like an acoustic version, but it's obvious that every element of their group is carefully selected to ensure an honest arrangement that doesn't include any gimmicks. They won't "sell-out" to sell more records. Sylvan Esso knows that honest art makes its audience feel something...even if it's a feeling of uncertainty.
The indie artists that thrive in an industry where "four-chord hits" dominate are the ones that rely on their inherent artistry and work their hardest to create something honest.