Caribou | Swim
Most Likely To: prove even the smart kids still need swimming lessons.
Caribou is the moniker of Dan Snaith, a Canadian-born, British dwelling, married man with a math Ph.D. and Napoleon Dynamite’s eyeglasses. Snaith’s press kit quotes him as saying that his latest release, Swim, sounds “liquid.” As abstract as this may seem, Snaith’s actually talking about taking a dip in the pool. His inspiration for the songs on Swim evolved as he did laps, learning to swim, courtesy of the swimming lessons his wife purchased for him as a Christmas gift.
To understand Swim you must dive in; it’s necessary to surround yourself with Snaith’s music. (Headphones, please.) Not only does Swim convey the fluidity of the subaquatic, the album’s sounds reverberate, distort, and amplify as they might underwater. Swim is hypnotic, and is best enjoyed in its entirety.
Swim begins with “Odessa,” a track so delicious it’s great enough to support the entire album, yet, of course, it’s not called upon to do so. Its bass line echoes and bubbles while Snaith’s repetitious vocals bring on a form of rhythmically inspired peace. Instead of making pleasing background music, Snaith fills up your head with so many layers and sounds that he renders thinking completely unnecessary. It’s a rock nerd’s form of meditative bliss.
While Snaith’s voice isn’t technically astounding, he uses it to his advantage on Swim. From the near falsetto on “Kaili” to the spoken words of “Found Out,” Snaith’s voice is always welcome. Yet with a work as complex as Swim, nothing, even the voice is always necessary, as one of Swim’s best tracks, “Bowls,” is an instrumental named for the Tibetan singing bowls sampled in the song.
“Leave House” is track that forces the listener out of solitary headspace, making it impossible not to contemplate dancing with others. Snaith blends an incessant flute melody with cowbell rhythms and vocals that recall The Juan Maclean or Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor. When Snaith sings, “That which makes us lonely will bring us back together,” he’s issuing an important reminder (probably to himself as much as the listener) to take off the headphones once in awhile and come up for air.
Watch the video for “Odessa”: