Esmé Patterson is one of several young women — others include Frances Quinlan of Hop Along, Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield, and Julien Baker — making music that could be called synapse-rock. Their songs explore how self-awareness forms from the mind's own chatter in combination with the feedback hitting it from many sources: loved ones met, images absorbed, songs heard, books read, alternate lives considered and rejected. "Without feeling wrong, how can we know what feels right?" Patterson sings on "Feel Right," the first single from her upcoming third solo album, We Were Wild. The reconnaissance missions into desire and reconciliation that fill this album show Patterson examining the minutiae of her own responses; her melodies jump and scatter, her voice pulling at the meanings her verses put forth, as she hones in on those moments when the heart falls apart and reassembles itself.
The Denver singer-songwriter wrote her most popular song, “No River,” about a time she felt like she was being a jerk.
I first came across the song a few years ago when I watched Patterson’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Soon after, I saw her play a show in Davenport, Iowa, where I was living. “No River” seemed to stop time. Her velvety voice starts off with the words, “I can’t keep running, ‘cause I’m no river.” She goes on to say she won’t hurt you or help you, because she’s no fire. And she can’t sit still, because she’s no mountain.