7 October 2014 (Merge Records)
By Josh Hughes
Caribou’s music radiates warmth. Not a kind of hearth-y vibe akin to Bon Iver (though “Our Love” lends itself rather well to Autumn), but an extremely human quality that’s soaked in emotional response just as much as it is in precision. While “Our Love” marks Dan Snaith’s most danceable record under Caribou (his other moniker Daphni is his output for more full on dance music), it’s also the most relatable, satisfying, and complex. Instead of branching off towards a boundary pushing route, Snaith roots himself in some sixty years of deep house, jazz, and hip-hop, and forges one of the most innovative and enjoyable electronic albums in recent memory.
The first thing you hear on the record is a slowed down vocal sample repeating “can’t do it / can’t do it / can’t do it” over four chords of blissful electric piano. Over the four minutes that make up “Can’t Do Without You”, the instrumentation builds at a glacial pace until it hits you in the face with its monumental apex of rushing cymbals and surging bass notes. It’s already a DJ landmark, and contentedly sits as my ‘song of the summer’. The power of restraint and correct placement makes the opening track so elegantly sparse, hitting more notes than ought to be possible with such little to work with. The truth is, I didn’t know how “Our Love” could possibly go higher than the highs reached so quickly on the first track. However, of course, it does.
“Silver” and “All I Ever Need” find the middle ground between Actress’s dreary wonderlands and Disclosure’s take on British house. Everything is so vibrant and every instrument is brushed with enough reverb and fuzz so the outcome inevitably sounds like saturated colors and brightness. Maybe part of it’s the psychedelic album art, but there’s a perfect blend of tension and nonchalance that’s more blissful and engaging than even Washed Out or Toro Y Moi (both of whom I love dearly). The title track is deservedly epic, understanding the necessary components of why a six minute house track can stay relevant throughout its whole course (something that, as of recent, Thom Yorke could take note of). The second section of its groove slips in Owen Pallett’s gorgeous string arrangements, as if the album wasn’t already dazzling enough. There’s something instantly likeable and human when strings play into an album. Think “MBDTF”, “What Is This Heart?”, “The 20/20 Experience Pt. 1”. Maybe we have the baroque masterpiece “Funeral” to thank for all of that, but whatever the case, it’s the fine tuning and delicate additions like that that help “Our Love” spill over into the, dare I say, territory of some of those classics. Everything that could leave one unsatisfied by a lesser record seems accounted for here.
It also all helps that Dan Snaith is a good songwriter in addition to his production work. Take “Swim”’s centerpiece “Odessa”- it remains one of the most influential dance tracks of the last several years that’s not affiliated with James Murphy. Not influential because of a singular hook or groove, but because it’s a brilliant pop song. While there is no singular moment as devastating as “Odessa” on “Our Love” (save “Can’t Do Without You”, which is splendid for other reasons), every song conveys that sort of urgency and blissfulness in subtle chord changes or overall ‘vibes’.
The mid album highlight “Second Chance” is bookended by a couple two minute tracks that seamlessly work their way into the mix, while still presenting ideas that are individual and add to the overall statement. “Mars” is a six minute hip-hop venture tied together with a flute melody that interweaves throughout the gaps in the beat, and the moment where the Actress influence is most notable. “Your Love Will Set You Free” closes the album with the return of Pallett’s string section and a memorable chorus of the track’s title. “Our Love” is an album of new awakenings in love, focusing on the ambiguity of that word itself. You don’t even need the lyrics to understand how celebratory and introspective the album is; it’s already written within the music. But between “Can’t Do Without You” and “Our Love” alone, Dan Snaith has written more human and believable love songs in 6 words than most artists can convey in an entire career.
Rating: Gotta Have It
Fav Tracks: “Can’t Do Without You”, “Silver”, “Our Love”, “Mars”