Caribou’s latest album, Our Love is nothing short of brilliant as Dan Snaith continues to make smart, heartfelt and melodic electronica. The Canadian musician lays out a series of provocative and sensual dance-driven tracks proving long gone are his doe-eyed, 60’s psychedelic pop days. It is obvious that Snaith has been inspired by the acceptance of the distance he trekked after Andorra, moving forward with the sound he harnessed in 2010’s Swim.
Our Love opens up with the first single, “Can’t Do Without You.” Dan’s vocals are manipulated down to a deep register, chanting “can’t do without” over and over again. The blurb then becomes a fully realized sentiment when the similarly repetitive “I can’t do without you” cuts through, presented in a completely opposite vocal tone. In the background a tight drum keeps the beat while synths warble and buzz. At about a minute and a half in, everything gets louder. The beat picks up and it’s hard to tell if the song’s chorus is a plea or a proclamation, the uncertainty of which is mirrored in the contrasting ranges as the two verses are sung back and forth to each other.
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Next comes my favorite track on the record, “Silver.” A trip-hoppy and airy ballad beginning with a sexy yet unintelligible chopped female vocal sample, followed closely by Snaith’s sultry falsetto. A determined synth arrangement builds drama until a sultry “ahh” and “oooh” are layered over top dreamy lyrics like “don’t you know what you do to me?” The song climaxes with a space-shuttle-like take off and finishes with a catchy melody on the keyboard.
A third track secures the theme of Our Love as that of a love speeding towards its inevitable conclusion, “I can’t take it, when you treat me wrong.” In a recent interview with Caribou on Stereogum, Snaith speaks to making an album on the topic of love, explaining his eagerness to stay away from the fairy tale version that often gets told ad nauseam, but instead explore the more nuanced intricacy that comes with loving another person. “I wanted an album that was much more about conveying that complexity” beyond that, he worked towards a positive takeaway, “but also for me it’s about loving and celebrating that complexity. That’s the central thing about existence for me — everything is always complicated, and it’s about enjoying how wonderful and rich that makes everything.” The beat drops and the song finishes with a dizzying electronic flutter.
The title track on Our Love mimics the duality in the first song “Cant’ Do Without You,” with the words “our love” being repeated between conflicting modulation. Towards the middle, it moves into a fast, dance club pace and the soft sentiments fade into a nirvana of synth pads and falling beats. “Dive” slows it downtempo and sets the stage for Jessy Lanza’s contribution to the album on the subsequent “Second Chance.” Her voice is breathy and sensuous as she coos for her lover to try again, “tell me if you really want it, ‘cause boy you know I do.” Not unlike Swim, there are a few tracks on Our Love that belong directly in a nightclub, “Julia Brightly” hits the mark with energy that is carried from end to end. “Mars” is the biggest departure on Our Love, sounding like it came right out of a sci-fi drama with eerie flutes and cosmic synthesizers.
“Back Home” is another one of Our Love’s gems, bringing back the sweet, soothing articulation of “Irene”, the pacifying vocals make a nostalgic callback to Andorra. The chorus grows infectiously more catchy, complemented by an ambitious piano melody and lyrical ponderings like “where did it all go wrong?” being serenaded over lush synths. Dynamic drums push the track forward, showing off Caribou’s adept tension-building skills. The sporadic volume changes add drama and help forge the perfect penultimate track to an album driven by thwarted passion.
The final track on Our Love begins as a bouncy and danceable message to a former lover, “in my dreams, yeah, you are here beside me in my bedroom.” Snaith continues with “hold each other like I never left you,” but halfway through the song it takes a turn and “your love will set you free” is repeated over again in a way that feels prescriptive towards the listener. A message not to give up hope, not to let go of love even when it’s unrequited. Within a single song, we are taken from a sense of longing to an acceptance for our current state, as imperfect as it may be. Before we know it, we’re ushered out of the dancehall, sweaty and singing along “your love will set you free” to ourselves and to each other.
Caribou’s Our Love is a culmination of work by a musician who has become comfortable trusting his own taste as well as those of his audience. While balancing moments filled with fervent inspiration, intelligence, and pure luscious melody, Caribou’s Our Love has created a trifecta achieved only by electronica’s best.
Melissa Vega is not one of those people that needs coffee every morning but one of those people that needs music every morning. There’s just something about trumpets sounding while the sun is rising that gets her out of bed every day. She wonders if her love for music will ever be a talent she will actually realize beyond being really excellent at singing in the shower. She can be summed up in a single lyric from Wilco’s “She’s a Jar”: “when I forget how to talk, I sing.”