When we last checked in on Manitoba’s Dan Snaith, a.k.a. Caribou, he was winning the 2008 Polaris Music Prize for his sixties psychedelica-meets-twenty-first century electronica Andorra (QRO review). But instead of resting on his critical acclaim, Snaith has pushed ahead into another decade of the last century meeting this new millennium, bringing the nineties beats of acts like Underworld into a more touching and moving frame. While not as complex or accomplished as Andorra, Swim can still stand on its own.
Admittedly, no piece on Swim stands taller than the opener, “Odessa”, which has a real cool groove without being over-cool, retaining the touching nature that sets Snaith apart. Too often, electronica – especially the more dance-able kind that Swim traffics in – is all thumping dance party, and not nearly enough substance. But the slight haunt and even melancholy to pieces such as “Found Out” or “Leave House” make them more significant and more memorable.
Still, Swim does suffer some from all the comparisons to the past – and not just to Andorra. The Underworld-like backbeats to “Kaili” and “Hannibal” feel like they were lifted directly from the electronica explosion of the nineties. And some of the instrumentation, such as the woodwinds on “Kaili” and instrumental “Bowls”, don’t feel inspired in these days of indie musicians like Yeasayer (QRO live review) or Joanna Newsom (QRO album review), who utilize all sorts of not-normally-indie instruments to an almost it’s-normal-for-indie level.
Andorra was a tough act to follow, in how it brought psychedelica to the modern day without all the psych-baggage – a feat that countless acts have been trying to do, especially today – and Swim doesn’t match it. But when taken on its own, Swim is a strong dancetronic record, and that’s always welcome.
MP3 Stream: “Odessa”