Dan Snaith's latest LP is full of ideas, some too complicated to click.
Club music, then, has defined the past ten years of Snaith's career, which may explain the slight pivot away from the dance floor on Suddenly, his first Caribou album since 2014. Suddenly has its ravey moments, but overall there's less chugging and thudding and more of a focus on songwriting. The energy swings wildly from zany pop and Technicolor house to tender ballads with no beat. He sings on every track. The maximalism of early Caribou albums like Up In Flames is back in full effect. For the most part, though, it's overwhelming.
Suddenly is overthought. Again and again, lovely passages are derailed by jarring sounds and strange deviations. Too many ideas are crammed in at once. The opening of "You And I" is simple and pretty, its twinkle and earthy slap evoking festival sunsets. So why the left turn into a mess of trap rhythms and pitched-down R&B samples? "New Jade"—more big, tasty pop with a starry melody—doesn't need the Spanish guitar coda. Four Tet apparently salvaged this one, which is funny because the melody echoes his recent work.
The LP's constant swing between moments that work and moments that don't is best exemplified by its vocals. On the one hand, there's Snaith's singing, which sits raw and exposed in a way we haven't heard before. The lyrics, on love and loss, are deeply personal. Some may find his earnest tone unpalatable, but I like his voice. It's soothing, sincere and frequently the best thing about the record, like on the gentle "Magpie," his song for the late sound engineer Julia Brightly. Harder to like are the vocal samples. Take the random chipmunk squeals on "You And I," or the chopped snippets on "Ravi" and "New Jade." This technique feels dated, evoking a period at the start of last decade when post-dubstep and future garage ruled the clubs.
There are, of course, exceptions. "Never Come Back," the album's truest festival banger, is a highlight. Snatches of vocal, bright and high-pitched, crash against ravey stabs. It's catchy and cohesive, a single idea seen through to completion. The same goes for "Home," a woody jam with bags of soul. Even the folky opener, "Sister," though a total contrast musically, follows the same principle: keep it bold and simple. This is what made the best Caribou tracks—"Sun," "Odessa," "Can't Do Without You"—so strong.
Suddenly is a frustrating listen. Snaith's talent for writing earworms, hooks and choruses has never been so apparent. But overall he sounds like he's trying too hard, taking influence from too many places. Some songs sound like several at once. Take "Lime." It begins as soft deep house, then gets weird and fuzzy, before finally settling into a smoky loop of hand percussion and hushed chanting. This final segment is beautiful, easily the best bit on the album, but it's only 50 seconds long, tacked onto the end of a totally different idea. It should be a special moment. Instead, you're left feeling confused.