Dan Snaith (a.k.a. Caribou) is no slouch. A prolific musician who’s been recording albums since the early aughts, he also found time to complete a PhD in math in 2005. A few years later, he pulled off another big achievement – this time, an artistic one: the 60’s pop tinged Andorra, which captured the 2008 Polaris Music Prize. Rather than trying to duplicate the feel-good psychedelia of that disc, the Canadian-born, U.K.-based electronic musician took a different tack with this year’s Swim, a stark and eerie sounding record by comparison.
One of the things I love about Swim is that it manages to be both cerebral and emotional all at once. Cerebral in the sense that Snaith’s not afraid to experiment with strange textures (one track features a prominent clanging sound, like someone hitting a metal bowl with a spoon) or unorthodox songwriting styles. And emotional in the sense that he seems to want to elicit more than just a head nodding to a beat.
Take the opening track “Odessa” for example. The words (“Takin’ the kids/drivin’ away/turn around the life she let him siphon away”) suggest a woman trapped in a bad relationship – possibly an abusive one, depending on how you read into it – and plotting an escape. But even if you don’t care to analyze the lyrics (I honestly didn’t even notice what he was saying until a couple of weeks ago), the song is still engaging on a strictly musical level. I’m always amazed by the variety of sounds that Caribou comes up with time and again. On “Odessa”, it’s weird little shrieking noises set against funky percussion, resulting in a track that’s simultaneously haunting and danceable. Who knew?