Review Summary: Dancing aloneWhat Now
is an album best experienced privately. This feels odd, given producer Nick Sanborn’s excellent ear for effusive electronic hooks, but vocalist Amelia Meath is a master of taking the extroversion out of pop music and bending all that remains inward. She’s a people-watcher in the most self-reflective sense, in that she understands others as a vehicle for understanding herself. “Die Young” is about Meath’s relationship with someone or something outside of herself, but it’s really about her fixation on burning out as brightly as she can; “Just Dancing” is about Meath’s relationship with someone or something outside of herself, but it’s really about her complex feelings about what she perceives as the interchangeability and futility of love; “Song” is about Meath’s relationship with someone or something outside of herself, but it’s really about her obsession with being someone else’s obsession. What makes What Now
worthwhile is the universality of its self-centeredness. Meath bleeds herself over glitched guitars and muscular keys with the bleary detachment of someone who’s been Figuring It Out for quite some time and will continue to do just that for the foreseeable future, but the artful whorls of her lyrics somehow balance the specifics of her particular anxieties with the more general anxieties of her audience. Of course she knows how to capture their nebulous perspectives, though - the point of this album is that she’s spent a lifetime observing others. Sylvan Esso has figured out the sound of walking home after school and thinking about your crush so that you can picture yourself saying things that’ll impress them, the music that plays as you sip a ten-dollar beer at the back of a hole-in-the-wall venue while you wait for the subway to deliver your friends to the door so you can get out of your own head for a few hours. We aren’t all that different in the end. Understand yourself, and you learn to understand those around you. Understand those around you, and you learn to resonate with them. Resonate with them, and you learn to speak about yourself in a way that carries meaning - and this is what What Now
does best. Take a walk with this in your headphones and look at the people passing by; you’re allowed some isolation among others.