- City Slang
In his decade-long career, Caribou's Dan Snaith has fluidly moved between genres like folktronica, shoegaze, krautrock, and 1960s sunshine pop, assimilating their most familiar traits until they're practically in his DNA. His albums have felt warm, loose, and ecstatic (especially 2003's still-career-best Up in Flames), despite Snaith's behind-the-boards meticulousness.
Snaith's latest, Swim, is even heavier on the precise sonic detail, and it's all the more impressive for it. Made with help from kindred spirits including Four Tet's Kieran Hebden, Junior Boys' Jeremy Greenspan, and Born Ruffians' Luke Lalonde, it was borne out of a desire to create "dance music that sounds like it's made out of water." Swim is darker both in tone and spirit than its predecessor, 2007's day-glo Andorra, swapping expansive drum-circle arrangements and ebullience for chilly rhythms and a bummed-out disposition. Easy entrance points here are scarcer than on any of Snaith's previous full-lengths-- as with 2005's kraut-centric The Milk of Human Kindness, repeat listens are key.
The record kicks off with its most accessible moment, "Odessa". Seasick bass, snatches of flute and guitar, and Snaith's mannered patter combine to give the song a pop-centric lean. But the song's easy appeal makes it easy to miss important details, like the ghosted acid-house bleat and lyrics about a break-up ("Taking the kids/ Driving away/ Turning 'round the life she let him siphon away") that establish Swim's bleary-eyed atmosphere. Lyrically, Snaith seems preoccupied with relationship-related indecision and ennui-- a noticeable departure from Andorra's moony-eyed devotionals. On the LP's other highlight, "Kaili", Snaith muses on a couple ruefully growing old together. Elsewhere, divorce and crumbling relationships permeate "Found Out" (whose female protagonist suffers hopelessness as "she knows she'll be there on her own") and empty-nest song "Hannibal".