Caribou – Swim (2010, City Slang Records)

Posted: May 19, 2010 by Ferg in Album Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I didn’t know anything about Caribou when I was asked to review this album, so I did a little research. Caribou is Canadian Dr Dan Snaith. Yes, a doctor: of algebra, no less, a PhD received from Imperial College London. His whole family carries this jealousy-inducing intelligence, but blessedly only Dan went into music, otherwise the whole industry might be overtaken by the Snaiths. The name Caribou was forced upon him when he was politely asked to drop his old name, Manitoba, by way of a lawsuit. So he did what everyone does when faced with this obstacle: drove into the Canadian mountains, took some acid, and let a bear tell him what to change his name to.

I am telling the truth.

Andorra was his breakthrough album in 2007, a hidden jem with some really laid back tracks you might find on a Ministry of Sound chillout album. Thus, it’s a difficult act to live up to.

Swim follows the same playlist formula as Andorra (which I listened to after Swim, for comparison), and ‘Odessa,’ the first track, is the first single from the album. A wise move: Caribou’s material is more strings, bells and whistles than synthesisers and driving beats that his contemporaries may favour. The whole album has an other-worldly, hallucinogenic feel to it, but the lyrics, where appropriate, keep the music firmly rooted on Earth. The fact that the music is more bells and whistles is a nice, relaxing sound to be honest, giving a more cheerful vibe than someone similar but more commercially successful like Moby: the jangly sound makes it feel more like being out in a barbecue in the Rockies than drowning in a sea of melancholic baldness.

For all the cheerful, happy-go-luckiness of it all, Swim perhaps could have done with a little more variety in its songs. It can feel repetitive at times, and after all, that’s what made the Prodigy’s Invader’s Must Die a failure. Thankfully, there’s enough good stuff in this album for it to sit alongside a CD rack that might be full of Chicane and Faithless. If Caribou’s quite happy keeping things low key, as his music suggests, it leaves a little less room for experimenting. But then who needs experimenting when you can put albums of this quality out?

This album feels like it’s not quite everything Snaith wanted from it, but it’s still a very well put together and solid album. Anyone picking this up will be very happy. Anyone who looks further, to find Andorra, for instance, will be even happier to have unearthed such a gem.

You can find ‘Odessa’ on our Spotify Playlist, Blue Air Songs of 2010 (clickety click). I thoroughly recommend giving it a listen.

3.5/5

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