By tweaking the sound of his previous record, Caribou's Dan Snaith has created one of the most enjoyable, crowd-pleasing records of the year.
Dan Snaith’s work under the name Caribou has been some of the most intriguing and enjoyable dance music of the last 10 years. Caribou’s previous record, 2010’s Swim, was one of those compulsively listenable albums that you almost feel guilty about over playing. But I never did get tired of Swim, and repeated listening only made me curious about what Snaith would follow it up with. Now, four years later, he is offering us Our Love and it is everything we could have wanted it to be. Indeed, Our Love feels like the natural continuation of what he was doing on Swim.
Caribou crafts amazingly catchy, ass-shaking, house influenced electronic music made up of warm, organic samples and Snaith’s own somewhat whiny, yet totally compelling vocals. Our Love reminds me of some delightful marriage of Around the House-era Herbert and TNT-era Tortoise, except that Our Love is poppier and more to the point than either of the abovementioned classics. It would have been an easy mistake for Snaith to have made to follow up the catchy, highly successful Swim with something much less accessible and more obviously experimental. Snaith has the courage to know what he was doing right on Swim and instead of reinventing the wheel, he expands on what he has already established, adding new voices, textures, and perspectives.
One of the remarkable things about Caribou is that Snaith apparently enlists a host of friends to help him play this stuff with actual instruments live. I have not had the pleasure of seeing this spectacle in a live setting, but just based on the YouTube videos, it is something to see. Our Love somehow manages to take synth heavy, psychedelic electronic music and make it sound like the catchiest Lady Gaga song that you have ever heard. Caribou is one of those exceptionally rare artists that reference multiple genres without ever being confined to any of them and somehow emerging from a sea of influences with memorable, emotional pop music. He bridges the divide between analog, instrument based popular music, and electronic dance music as seamlessly as any artist working today.
Both in terms of the sound of his voice and in the lovelorn, melancholy content of Snaith’s lyrics, Our Love reminds me of Mike Paradinas’ recent output, although Our Love is more pop oriented. Most of these songs are quite short and succinct. Each track offers specific ideas, unpacks them, and moves on; a feat which seems obvious, but which so many like-minded artists fail to accomplish. Caribou uses repetition, which is house music’s bread and butter, without ever seeming repetitive.
"Second Chance", featuring the exquisite R&B inflected vocals of Jessy Lanza, is perhaps the most emotive, affective track on Our Love, but it serves as an excellent example of what makes Our Love so successful throughout. Snaith takes his tried and tested sound, brings in collaborators, and emerges with a different perspective on a sound that was already deeply convincing. Late album breath-catcher "Back Home" slows things down and offers the listener some of Snaith’s most poignant lyrics and evocative vocals, adding layers towards the end of the track that ground in firmly in the rest of the record. Caribou highlight the soulfulness of classic Chicago house without ever confining himself to conventions or genres.
My ears keep identifying in Our Love another Midwestern influence: the jazz rock excellence of bands like Tortoise and Pele. Snaith has his work cut out for him in following up Swim and he could have gone in a lot of different directions. By tweaking the sound of his previous record, adding wisely chosen collaborators, and not trying to totally revolutionize what was already working quite well, Snaith has created one of the most enjoyable, crowd pleasing records of the year.