by Hipster Hamster Hipster Hamster
May 1, 2010

Caribou has always been something of an enigma. With no real aesthetic consistency between albums, Dan Snaith’s musical vision has been notoriously difficult to pin down. While his earlier works focused on minimalistic, drone-heavy psychedelic electronica, the Canadian born (but London based) musician shifted to a more traditional, poppier sound for 2007’s Andorra, drawing heavily from the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

Early single “Odessa” indicated that fans looking for more of the same would be disappointed. The album opener is a swirling, sample-heavy dance number with a driving bass line and soothing vocals. Snaith says that he spent a lot of time in clubs preparing for this record, and it shows. Throughout Swim, grooves and beats are the main focus as Caribou meticulously pieces together his compositions with the sole intent of making them danceable. Lyrics often take a backseat (“Sun” features one lyric: “sun,” repeated) in order to showcase the instrumentals and the result is an album that is entirely focused on busting a groove.

On some tracks, Snaith works expertly to build tension and suspense before flawlessly executing the release. “Sun” and “Kaili” both work this formula to perfection, hinting throughout at the climax to come, but never giving anything away until the right moment. Other songs are content simply to simmer, to mixed results. Both “Bowls” and “Lalibela” keep things fairly relaxed, reworking their melodies several times while throwing in an occasional piece of flair—bongo drums, a flute loop, strangely muted bells, or haunting vocal chants—and never really peak. While they don’t match the excitement that songs like “Odessa” or “Sun” provide, both pieces work really well as ambient interludes between more lively songs.

That puts Swim at a bit of a crossroads. While dance-friendly grooves abound, the songs are always tinged with a hint of restraint. There’s enough weirdness to deter casual listening and dancing, but the big moments are there, if you stick around to listen for them. None of the tracks go full-bore into club-hit territory, preferring instead to keep the bass lines and drum beats muted and murky, as if you were listening to them underwater.

Dan Snaith calls his work “liquid dance music,” and it’s an apt descriptor. The beats are fluid, everything is a little bit dampened, and the melodies appear through the murk like flashes of sunlight.  Swim isn’t going to produce the next nightclub anthem, but if you’re looking for to get down to something a little more challenging, Caribou might be just what you need.

Swim was released April 19, 2010 on Merge Records.

out of 5 weasels.

Click PLAY for a 30 second free MP3 of each track or the track name for lyrics in a new tab/window

  1. Odessa (FREE MP3)
  2. Sun
  3. Kaili
  4. Found Out
  5. Bowls
  6. Leave House
  7. Hannibal
  8. Lalibela
  9. Jamelia


Visit Caribou online:

“Odessa” music video

Never trust a hamster. Support the artist and find out for yourself. encourages purchasing Swim locally at Red Cat Records in Vancouver, B.C, any independent record store of your choice or online here.


2 Responses to “Turncoat Turntable 027: Caribou – Swim”

  1. [...] Leave a Comment I reviewed Caribou‘s latest for westcoastweasel. Check it out there for added [...]

  2. [...] review) Hipster Hamster raves on both Crystal Castles’ latest as well as Caribou’s Swim (album [...]

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