Switched On – Caribou: Suddenly (City Slang)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Suddenly may well be an ironic title, given that it marks the reappearance of Caribou as a long playing solo artist for the first time in five years. The artist – aka Dan Snaith – has bewitched us with a number of solo albums blending instrumental electronica and a warm vocal. The last two under the pseudonym of Caribou – Swim and Our Love – were also released at an interval of half a decade, suggesting Snaith has a relaxed rhythm about his music.

What’s the music like?

There is a lot going on in the twelve tracks of Suddenly. Snaith loves to write layers in to his music, so that even the vocal tracks have a collage of instrumental riffs and colours backing them up. A lot of love and care has clearly gone into them, and a good deal of soul shows through too, Snaith coming across as a warm-hearted writer generous with his riffs and hooks. There are deep personal references, too, with Snaith’s mother appearing briefly on the opening Sister.

On occasion, however, he can be too generous. Some of the tracks start to get going but get chopped up and don’t get a chance to fully flex their muscles. It is possible that Snaith has included too much from his reported 900 experimentations that led to the album, as though desperate to cram as much in as possible. There are moments of real beauty in tracks such as Sunny’s Time, with the freedom of its meandering piano, or New Jade with its dappled textures, but they prove fleeting rather than constant.

Never Come Back is a definite exception, a warm and heartening synth-driven piece of positive energy, up there with Caribou’s best tracks. Ravi is up there too, as calming as the blue cover, while there are soft, rounded vocals with a rueful edge on Like I Loved You.

Does it all work?

See above. When Caribou nails a good track it certainly stays nailed – but on occasion there is a bit too much going on. The feeling persists that some of the more driven beats –  Ravi or Never Come Back for instance are where we see some real punch to the rhythms.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Even on an album that proves a little frustrating it is impossible not to be impressed or moved with what Caribou can achieve. He is a fine producer of some very optimistic and affirming music. Fans will lap it up for sure – but newcomers might be better directed to some of the albums further back in the canon.

Stream

Buy

You can buy Suddenly from the Bandcamp website here

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