Caribou: Swim

With Swim, Snaith has found his stride rather brilliantly, combining radio-friendly beats ("Odessa") with funky, subdued jams ("Kaili," "Leave House"). The resulting product is one of the year's best albums -- one that will be difficult to top for its ambitious and experimental nature.

What the critics are saying:  

Pitchfork: "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". 

Spin: "Dan Snaith's adventurous music, first as Manitoba and now as Caribou, has ranged from serene, defiantly melodic IDM to backward-looking psychedelia and krautrock. Though Swim is less referential, the artist that does come to mind in these sprawling pieces is Arthur Russell, whose outsider disco and house featured warped cello and ghostly vocals. Similarly, disco and house are the templates here, and Swim builds drama with fluttered flutes, processed strings, skronking saxophone, or a wheezing horn meandering over a defiant, ominous bass. Snaith's favorite later-period instrument is his delicate, high-pitched, echoing voice, which melds perfectly with the flanged circumlocutions of "Hannibal" and the slashing strings on 'Jamelia.'"

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Drowned In Sound: "Perhaps what's most special about Swim is the meticulous attention-to-detail that imbues each song. Snaith has said that he worked his way through 600 ideas before settling on these nine songs, and it feels as though those ideas have been blended into a concentrated smoothie of J-O-Y throughout. His music really is art for the ears, with hues, colours, textures and aural brush strokes dripping with vibrancy and imagination. Listen carefully and you'll hear the stroke of a harp transforming into a resonant blanket of bells ('Bowls') hits of drenched percussion that sound like Liquid Liquid would if they packed up their NY apartment and headed to the beach ('Found Out') and backing vocals that wash around the mix in woozy delight ('Leave House'.)"

BBC Music: "Snaith has said that he wants to make dance music which sounds more like water than metal, and the swirling and swishing effects on opener Odessa are perfect exemplars of this theory. He almost whispers over the sound waves, but the beats are never anything less than precise. The track - the album's lead single, too - features a slightly darker edge than we're used to; certainly the rhythms on it are insistent rather than dreamy. Perhaps the subject matter here - which apparently touches on loneliness - is also at play. But Swim, as a whole, is far from a depressing listen - in fact there are moments which are almost transcendental, such as on the uplifting Kaili."

Swim is out now via Merge.

Caribou will be playing The Clubhouse Tuesday, May 18 with Toro y Moi.

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