Melody days from the artist formerly known as Manitoba
It took me a long time to get over how mediocre Caribou’s last album ‘The Milk of Human Kindness‘ was. After the psychedelic onslaught of ‘Up in Flames‘ (recorded under previous moniker ‘Manitoba’), his sophomore record was an exercise in plodding 60s-infused futility. I tried to ignore praise garnered for ‘Andorra‘ but got sold on the some of the MP3s doing the rounds, especially the stunning opener ‘Melody Day’.
So what has changed? Chiefly, Dan Snaith has avoided the musical magpie-ism of some of less inspired contemporaries and peristed with the kaleidoscopic sound that has become his trademark. Instead of hopping onto the next bandwagon, he has spent time refining his song-craft, developing his swirling, sometimes saccharin sonics around more carefully rendered vocal melodies. Not blessed with the stongest voice, he has sounded bland on previous vocal outings. But here he plays to his strengths, his vocals anchoring the melodies but very much in the back of the mix, part of the blurred aesthetics that suggest a spectrum of influences but become more than a sum of their parts.
‘Andorra‘ still suggests Snaith’s roving ear for the zeitgesit. Many of the harmonies are very much from the ‘Animal Collective/Grizzly Bear’ school of psychedelia. Furthermore, the excellent ‘She’s The One’ features vocals from Jeremy Greenspan, albeit in a style at odds with the synth pop of Junior Boys. Meanwhile, there is something of the early Stone Roses about tracks like ‘Sandy’ and ‘Eli’, with a little Jesus and the Mary Chain thrown in for good measure. One shouldn’t be surprised, shoegaze is a Snaith standard, and the current renaissance shows no signs of abating (check out the Magnetic Fields’ latest, ‘Distortion‘).
Furthermore ‘Desiree’ awakens spring-like from a whimsical folk ditty into a shapeshifting technicolour folktronica, part Panda Bear, part Amorphous Androgynous. ‘Irene’ is beautifully deconstructed, like a resurrected master tape of a 60s pop song, all warped and time-damaged retro, not dissimilar to some Broadcast. Elsewhere ‘Sundialing’ and ‘Niobe’ display leanings towards trance, if not the dancefloor itself. Having moved further away from electronica and closer to more song orientated material, Snaith’s best work may yet be ahead of him.