Album of the Week: Caribou – Suddenly

It seems hardly necessary to sing Caribou and Dan Snaith’s praises for an album that had won its accolades, way in advance of its release. A cover feature on Mix Mag, an 8.2 rating on Pitchfork, and reviews on every popular music outlet have installed “Suddenly” as one of the most eminent LPs of 2020, thus far. Even Resident Advisor’s claim that “Suddenly is a frustrating listen” has only gone to contribute to the its immediate popularity. So why add our voice to a chorus of sycophantic praise for the album? Because on this occasion the hype holds true to the music.

The much anticipated follow-up to “Our Love” (whose grooves had been worn flat from the amount it was played at Jaeger’s cafe), “Suddenly” establishes Snaith’s Caribou alias yet again in that mystic realm between the dance floor and pop music. While his Daphne moniker has pandered largely to the club concept, informed by elements of House and UK bass music, Caribou circumvents the functional in favour of showcasing Snaith’s strength as a songwriter. On this album, he has turned an introspective focus on personal experiences of life, love, birth and death for a LP that maintains his innovative approach to electronic sounds and constructions.

It’s Snaith’s voice which jars the listener into submission from the very first notes of the LP on “Sister” as the raw, fairly unprocessed voice, invites you close to the artist, disarming the listener the intimate experience that follows through “Suddenly.” It’s an album about those “life-changing moments that stop you in your tracks” Snaith told Mixmag in their cover story, but while associations of melancholy and sadness are so easily entertained through these ideas, “Suddenly” indulges a subdued euphoria.

The album thrives on the beatific nature of Snaith’s voice, which is much more prominent than its ever been on his work, and although innocent, the music contains some striking curiosities that have remained central to the Caribou sound. The disembodied vocal samples that float through tracks like “New Jade” and “Lime” and the swirling detuned plucked strings of “Like I loved you,” perpetuate Snaith’s innovative instrumentation. Through texture and arrangement Snaith presents a disjointed pop aesthetic, where a dislocation in music often references a lyrical theme, broaching on sincere personal subjects from death to #metoo.

Lyrics read like fragments of parchment strewn across a living room floor, and can go from a simple line like “You never come back” to evoking weighty subjects like when he sings a lyric like “Brother, you’re the one that must make changes” on the opening track, in a clear commentary on gender equality. Simple, concise lines appear in the abstract, leaving the door open for interpretation and while the lyrics contain some poignant springboards to further rumination, they only work within the context of the songs. Snaith’s voice acts as that tether between the robotic nature of the electronic music and the human condition where “Suddenly” is more than just a dance record; even though the duo of “Lime” and “Never Come back” would make a very affective 12″.

“Suddenly” is a pop record and it should be appreciated as such, but more than that it’s a pop record that has brought something subcultural to the mainstream. Together with the likes of Four Tet and Floating Points, Caribou has done for dance music, what Talking Heads achieved for post-punk. It frames elements of dance- and club music in the popular realm without losing that sincere intent that associates with the more subcultural aspects of the Dan Snaith’s music.