Check out the cover for Caribou’s latest LP, vibrant and flush with flowers of varying colors and opacity’s blended together to uniformly fit against a 2D surface. Nothing better defines Our Love, Dan Snaith’s 4th album as Caribou, than this backdrop. Over the years Snaith’s sound has defined itself time and time again, constructing itself in more secure, elaborate ways. Swim, his beloved 2010 release, removed the genre restrictions of IDM by making music that was both mindless yet purely evocative, built with irresistible grooves that could be appreciated on the dance floor or alone in your car. Dance music, at least defined by a singular genre, no longer exists and is basically sub-divided across a litany of forms, DubStep, EDM, and Trap just to name a few. It’s why Caribou’s music remains fresh, nothing existing today sounds like it, nor aims to. To most it’s old news, it uses no over-powering bass, no pre-determined drops, or insistent build-ups, and yet, more than many electronic artists could hope, his music sounds the most exuberant. Our Love doesn’t sway too much from this format, only further perfecting it, presenting some of the most inventive, unique, and downright filthy beats of the year in a pretty uniform package that lusts over love, relationships, and everything that makes those two inseparable.
If there’s one thing Our Love failed at it was timing. The record, in all facets of the term, is a summer album, a definitive summer album, not October material. Just see first single ‘Can’t Live Without You’ as evidence. Reminiscing on the old days of rave music with vocal quotable’s endlessly repeating themselves, the opening track reeks of summertime bliss. From soaring synths gliding across the background to the harmonic hopscotch between trading voices, ‘Can’t Do Without You’ is everything a track needs to be ingrained into the minds of those currently losing theirs. The title track followed suit, released as the second single, concluding the summer, with another mind-numbing progressively pace dance anthem that would have thrown early rave clubs through a loop. With details coming from every corner, in the smallest of increments, ‘Our Love’ is assertive in its persistence to captivate listeners, this becoming especially true when a beat-switch midway through causes riffs across the speakers as a chopped-and-screwed vocal distorts not just the tempo but the feeling of the entire track. The album thrives off this rampant attention to detail, using every bare surface as a canvas to splatter unique and unorthodox musical elements, at least by Caribou’s standards, into the mix.
While Caribou excels in aligning these poignant tunes and mastering them together, his true bread-and-butter lies within his heartfelt lyricism that bears itself to the tribulations a relationship fosters, something he’s either been battling with or profiting off of for a long time. Snaith bears his soul while crying out for love, then denounces it within a moment’s notice, not exempt from the problems at hand himself. Much like how M83 benefits off the same regurgitated topics of teen angst, Caribou calls out for songs of love, standing atop the cliche mountain of parroted songs throughout the years. He isn’t using these messages as a means to get across a point like many others however, rather he divulges these feelings of resentment as they go best in accordance with his style of music; beautiful, deep, and shining. While some songs get by on their own production merits without the assistance of Snaith’s vocals, others, mainly ‘Second Chance,’ lose all value when he’s absent, this time replaced by Jessy Lanza in an attempt at heightening an R&B track with woozy synths. For the most part, it doesn’t work, and nearly ruins all the build-up the album had going by that point. It’s not because of Lanza’s voice, as a singer her voice spans numerous pitches elegantly, but the meshing with the direct, rigid production that never escalates or transforms, drastically different from all other tracks.
Other tracks here, while inventive and intriguing in their own right, don’t land as strongly as the stars. ‘Mars’ folds and progresses nicely, with a soft tribal drum symbolizing the foundation, before a pipped flute overtakes the ballad along with distorted vocals. The parts work, but together they seem a bit less, disconnected from their counterparts. ‘Dive’ also fails at delivering typical Caribou quality, sounding like a trap-influenced beat that could have been found on any free audio program and adds nothing to the record lasting a mere two minutes. Despite this, the majority still compliment and expand Caribou’s excellent catalog, and no song does this better than ‘Silver,’ which may be in the running for best produced track of the year. With a lingering, impactful, and mesmerizing 80’s synth loop that could have seamlessly blended with the Drive soundtrack, ‘Silver’ takes the best of every piece Caribou has to offer and implants it onto a single track for the indecent indulging. His voice, streaming through the wavelengths, is met with haunting vocal melodies and soaring bass inflections that rip through the fabric holding ‘Silver’ together, adding a layer of depth to the song that balances a hazy dream with a startling nightmare. Towards the conclusion Caribou collapses everything only to ascend to the heavens with a high-pitched synth keyboard pattern that explodes into the finale of the track.
Our Love confounds listeners between intensely paying close attention and losing their ligaments to the powers of the grooves. At its best it’s one of the best dance records in recent memory, enthrallingly imaginative to what can be done with music given enough skill, patient, and creativity. Caribou’s music speaks through colors, rather than dim grays, blacks, and whites used at telling the starkness of reality, he uses greens, pinks, oranges, and everywhere in between to escape listeners into a fantasy world where the only remaining connection with reality is love. The closer caps this belief exquisitely as Snaith repeats that “Your love will set you free,” a reassuring notion to the artist’s often depressing overtones. Our Love is filled with exuberant sounds, masterfully arranged, condensed and all-inclusive, sparking feel-good vibes through the speakers as your feet can’t stop tapping, hand can’t stop shaking, and head can’t stop bobbing, while your mind remains unsure as to listen intently or entirely let go.