The good news: Caribou’s Our Love is a fantastic continuation of the sound Dan Snaith curated in its predecessor, 2010’s mind-blowing Swim. Its loving homage to deep house, minimalist techno, and electronica in general cements it as the natural progression of Snaith’s sound, and it makes the four years between releases oh-so worth it.
The bad news: for a musician whose body of material is so vast and fluid, it’s almost a little disappointing to see Caribou move on from the ambient-tinged, psych-influenced sounds of 2007’s Andorra, for which he received a Polaris Prize. The divide between Caribou’s early material and the songs on Our Love has never felt greater, but while long-time fans may have a hard time coming to terms with the fact that Manitoba’s ambient discography isn’t going to make a comeback any time soon in Snaith’s present work, it’s easier than ever to recommend Caribou to music aficionados in general.
There are points, mainly in the middle half of Our Love, that have the potential to be a little cheesy—in the same way that Daft Punk’s hyper-compressed vocals in “One More Time” is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, the four-on-the-floor dance beat to Caribou’s title track is equally playful. Interestingly, Snaith chooses the most iconically ’90s aspects of techno to borrow from; in less capable hands, “Second Chance” could have come off sounding like typically-ironic hipster runoff, but the wealth of experience behind Caribou’s monicker lets the album get away with some pretty bizarre stylistic choices.
Our Love benefits from being a somber album, filled with a brooding sense of meaning that helps the DJ-inspired tracks breathe openly. From the first minor-key synth lines of opener “Can’t Do Without You”, there is a reserved aspect to Snaith’s compositions that requires more reflection than traditional techno tracks ask for. Make no mistake, the artistic integrity that cemented Andorra in the realm of musical genius is still present, if masked occasionally behind sampled vocal loops and retro drum machine arrangements. “Julia Brightly” could fit as an interlude between tracks on Discovery, even if its manic successor “Mars” ruins that ambient atmosphere in a rapid attack of tribal drumming and flute melodies.
Dan Snaith has proven that, no matter the influence, Caribou is a powerful and interesting metric with which to judge Canadian electronic music. Our Love benefits from a sullen timbre and a weighted reflection in the production of each of its ten tracks. Although the occasional sour reference can feel a little over-the-top, ultimately its pulsating synthetic drive (exemplified in “Back Home” and its arpeggio groove) and spirit is what makes Our Love such a fantastic follow-up to Swim. It doesn’t get better than this for thinking-man’s house music.