Caribou Our Love

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Swim marked a huge shift for Dan Snaith (a.k.a. Caribou). Although the Canadian musician's playfully opaque pop had long been the subject of critical acclaim, the release of his 2010 LP prompted a whole new level of accolades. In the intervening years, he's toured the world several times, supported the likes of Radiohead, and has somehow also made time for his club-focused Daphni moniker, fleshing the project out with 12"s and eventually an LP on his own Jiaolong label. Jiaolong took an instinctive, off-the-cuff approach to house and Afrobeat pastiche, with less intricate (but still realized) productions than his main project. It was Snaith's reaction to popular dance sounds, which he found "really macho" and "super-aggressive," and this dalliance with the club world seems to have changed him. Moreover, it helps explain why Our Love is the most accessible record Snaith has ever released.

Snaith has stated that he approached the sixth Caribou album with an intention to make his fans happy, which perhaps explains the record's largely upbeat combinations of summer house anthems, hip-hop ballads, and straight-up R&B, with a bit of UK garage thrown in for good measure. On tracks like "All I Ever Need" and "Back Home," Snaith's delicate voice is more accentuated in the mix than usual, and his lovesick croon takes on a newfound vulnerability. However, it's Jessy Lanza that delivers Our Love's vocal standout on the breathtakingly simple "Second Chance," which pairs her disarming coos with a queasy, step-sequenced synth. Listening to this bizarro R&B production for the first time, it's not hard to imagine it sung by a pop superstar like Janet Jackson or, perhaps more appropriately, someone like AlunaGeorge. Throughout the LP, Snaith absorbs the essence of contemporary pop and uses his war chest of analog synths, drum machines, and effect filters to shape it as he pleases.

Opener "Can't Do Without You" sets the bar extraordinarily high for the rest of Our Love, with a widescreen house build that doesn't want to end. Layers of analog noise, sub bass, and percussion swell into the ether, cutting out just before the volume becomes unbearable. "Silver" follows, a moody pop gem that lays down some dystopian synth lines recalling Planet Mu artists like Kuedo. As the song unfolds, the gloom gives way to a sunny ending, as Snaith uses his synth cavalcade and hip-hop rhythms to reach a buoyant coda. This sense of newfound excitement and joy permeates much of the LP, though it does wilt a bit near the end. "Mars" starts out as a respectable Swim retread, but the annoying vocal loops (read: "I put a milli on it") seem lazy and out of character. Similarly, "Your Love Will Set You Free" closes with Snaith repeating the title refrain, but the moment comes off more half-baked than transcendent. Our Love's final cut may run through an array of gorgeous sounds, but it regrettably still rests on some forgettable melodies.

In hindsight, Snaith's public romance with club music—a process that began to bloom on Swim, flowered with Jiaolong, and ultimately led to Our Love—isn't so surprising. More importantly, it's been paralleled by the general public's growing acceptance of unusual electronic sounds in its pop. With Our Love, Snaith largely succeeds in bridging the two worlds, crafting radio-friendly cuts that can't be mistaken for the work anyone but Caribou.