Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Add Date: April 20

Artist: Caribou

Album: Swim

Label: Merge

Genre: Electronica, electropop

Comments: One of the most rewarding things about listening to Caribou is that Dan Snaith has never made the same record twice. In his excellent review of Swim on, Tim Sendra describes the previous LPs from Caribou (originally known as Manitoba): "the left-field IDM of Start Breaking My Heart, the shimmering neo-shoegaze of Up in Flames, the spare Krautrock of The Milk of Human Kindness, and the songcraft of Andorra." There are elements that mark those albums as Snaith's work throughout, and until 2007's Andorra, Caribou's first record for Merge (She & Him, Shout Out Louds, Spoon), there seemed to be a very logical progression--culminating in that brilliant release from three years ago, which won Canada's Polaris Music Prize.

If you're expecting more psychedelic pop on Swim, you're in for a huge surprise. But it's ultimately a pleasant one: this is the best Caribou record yet. It's much more electronic than anything Snaith has recorded since Up in Flames, and yet still as accessible as his pop-leaning recent work. Let the man himself explain: "The real substance of the sound of the record for me is this idea of making dance music that consists of liquid elements," Snaith says. "Rather than sounding metallic and rigid, everything is washing around you while you're listening to it--from one ear to another--but also the pitch is oscillating up and down, and each instrument is going in and out of tune with everything else. Sounds are emerging and disappearing, like everything is made out of water. Dance music is very much associated with very crisp, metallic, clean sounds. I like this idea of dance music that just washes around with fluidity."

Critics and fans are already calling this Caribou's masterpiece. I'll wait to reserve judgment; if his first decade of work is any indication, Snaith may put out a record in two or three years that somehow manages to trump his first five LPs. However, this is easily going to end up as one of the best records of 2010. Check out "Odessa," "Leave House," "Jamelia" (featuring vocals from Born Ruffians frontman Luke Lalonde) and "Kaili."

Also, go see Caribou (with former WLUR playlist favorite Toro y Moi) at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville on May 11. Snaith's LPs are done almost entirely as solo projects, but Caribou always tours as a 4 or 5-piece, and their live shows are nothing short of spectacular.

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