It’s hard to deny that Dan Snaith is a very intelligent man. Holding a PhD in pure mathematics from Imperial College London, the contents of which read like a selection of rejected Aphex Twin track names, he’s obviously operating in a different sphere to a lot of the DJs and producers that he is often billed alongside. This juxtaposition is represented in many other aspects of his music as well, such as the (seemingly narrowing) gap between the emotive electronica of his work as Caribou and the more dancefloor oriented productions as Daphni. And on his 7th studio album, Our Love, the sudden changes in style even sink into individual songs.
The album opens with ‘Can’t Do Without You‘, the soundtrack to most of this summer’s sweat drenched, serotonin fuelled embraces. As an opening song, it captures the essence of the album as a whole; a simple refrain atop gentle synths that constantly builds and swells until eventually the subtleties of the track are lost in distorted fuzz. It almost wrong-foots you when the noise suddenly disappears and you’re left with nothing but Snaith’s voice and the same soft chords as the intro, but it sets a pattern for the rest of the record.
One thing that becomes more and more apparent as each song finishes is how much more confident a vocalist and lyricist he has become. By his own admission, lyrics on earlier albums were written just to rhyme and not to add too much real meaning, and the vocals were often so effects laden as to be unrecognisable as his own. During ‘Silver’ and ‘All I Ever Need’ though the dark side of the narrative of the album is made clear simply through his words, even when sung against the joyous backdrop of the former. “What you gonna do without me tonight” he whispers, before one of the most euphoric musical moments of the entire record erupts, bringing a sense of closure to some half remembered heartbreak.
As you move into the title track, the dancefloor ambitions of the album are realised in a way far more reminiscent of Daphni than any previous Caribou record. The bass is more insistent, the hats more energetic, and by the time the track has morphed into something not dissimilar to Inner City’s ‘Good Life’ it is plain to see why Snaith under any alias is so popular on the festival circuit. Songs that catch you off guard in how eminently danceable they are are so often the best kind, and the album is full of these moments where as a listener you catch your head nodding of its own accord.
Bringing in Jessy Lanza to sing on ‘Second Chance’ could have been a decision that gave Snaith a shot at an honest to God mainstream hit, with her vocals perfect for hooking the wider audience. As the song progresses, however, it quickly becomes clear that this was never the intention as his synths become more and more wilfully atonal, aping his previous album under this moniker. And if ‘Second Chance’ harks back to Swim then ‘Mars’ is pure Jiaolong; its relentless percussion and airy flutes could easily be a forgotten project from the Daphni full length.
In closing track ‘Your Love Will Set You Free’, the melody of ‘All I Ever Need‘ reappears, but the lyrics paint an entirely different picture. If the earlier track was a story of loss and longing, then this is a reconciliation, and in it the whole theme of the album is laid bare. The lyrics throughout have made reference to the highs of love, and the lows of loss and regret, and although it is unlikely that many of the negatives are autobiographical given that Snaith has been happily married for over a decade, it is plain to see that within the record as a whole, there is a consistent and believable idea of a genuine relationship.
It’s hard to deny that Dan Snaith is a very intelligent man, and on this showing it seems he has to be. The balancing act between the polarising emotions on show during Our Love’s run time is dealt with in a way that often has the feel of the music and lyrics at odds with each other, and yet the complete piece brings them together in perfect unison. This balance extends into his two personas, and with this album it seems that the void between them has all but disappeared.