Flowers covered by layers of colors, clashing together without focus, so that your iPod screen looks like a basket of entrancing jewels—and that’s just the album cover. Our Love, Caribou’s newest musical endeavor, will mesmerize you all the same.
“You know, dance music isn’t just escapism; at best it’s always been about including the difficulties and challenges of life rather than just being this utopian, bacchanalian zone.” This ideology, which Caribou’s Dan Snaith recently spoke of in an interview with The Guardian, is what makes Our Love such a worthwhile outing.
Musicians frequently try to incorporate different topics into their albums’ narratives, and while this sometimes works, there is often a problem with unity. On the other hand, artists that focus solely on one topic can run the risk of becoming redundant. It’s like trying to sum up all that Boston College has to offer in ten songs, versus somehow making an album purely about Edmond’s. Either way, good luck.
Caribou chose, as his newest album title suggests, to investigate one area of interest—love. And although the topic itself is no stranger to musical incorporation, Our Love’s exploration is particularly well done.
In that same interview with The Guardian, Snaith explained why he wanted to approach the idea of love in music differently. “With these UK pop-dance hits, it’s very much this naive, perfect vision of love, something really simplistic or based around a night out. Which is fine for them, but it doesn’t make any sense for me to sing about those kind of things. I’ve got a kid, I have friends who are struggling to keep their relationships together, I’ve lost people close to me… But my experience is that the challenges, along with the joys, are what give life – and music – that richness.”
To achieve this “richness,” Snaith's newest album doesn’t use many words, and he chooses them rather carefully; but those words, whether said one time or a hundred times, pack a punch. Most of the lead song “Can’t Do Without You” consists of the phrase, “I can’t do without you.” How many layers can there be to such a simple phrase?
Well, we know that he loves his partner, and if she were to ever leave him, that simply would not do; it would not be okay. But at a more basic level, he literally can’t do without her—he cannot even function as a person without her, unable to do anything at all.
And then, on a completely different level, the song (and the album) can be taken as a narrative between a musician and the music he makes. He loves it, and he cannot do anything without it. We may also consider ourselves the addressees, and consider how our support is what allows Snaith to live his dream. It’s a great way to bring listeners into the music and his personal life all at once.
In other songs, he exposes the way in which love consists of back-and-forth and indecision. In “Silver,” he asks, “Why’d you have to change your mind, just as I was changing mine?” It always seems like one person wants something that the other doesn’t, and when the other finally comes around to the idea, the first person has changed their mind.
In “All I Ever Need,” one of the best songs on the album, Snaith starts off by telling his significant other that he can’t take the “way [she treats him] wrong” and that his “next love will be the best [he’s] ever had.” But, just as so many people in love, he realizes that he was simply in denial of what he truly wanted—what he truly needed. On the third verse, he claims, “I was wrong. All these years, to be with you, is all I ever need.” That’s a big change of mind, just as mentioned in the track “Silver” that came before, giving the album a greater sense of continuity.
What allows for these sensibly chosen verses to really sink in is the way in which the album is presented and produced. Our Love’s special appeal comes in the form of emotion. The words do not take precedence over the rhythm, and the rhythm wouldn’t be the same without the words. The dreamy production, the reserved vocals, the relatable stories; they are woven together at the very core of each song, so that listeners don’t just hear Caribou’s music—they feel it.
“Our Love,” the title track off the album, basks in this appeal. It’s a song that basically only chants “our love,” referencing nothing other than the music surrounding it. The rhythm builds expertly and reaches a climax near the end of the song that feels so right. Simple on the outside and complex on the inside, the song works largely in the same way that love does.
After a variety of wise insights, Jessy Lanza's much-appreciated female voice and even a few instrumental songs, Our Love finishes strongly with “Your Love Will Set You Free.” For a song supposedly about freedom, much of the it is quite sad, as he misses his companion ever since he left her, dreaming about her regularly.
He lets the song fade out, then back in, before addressing the audience, telling us “your love will set you free,” which seems contradictory, considering that this album shows the turmoil that directly results from being in love. The bizarre sounds that finish the album seem to mirror that strange nature of love, how it brings you to both ends of the spectrum of feeling.
But, we get the idea that Caribou truly does still believe that love is freeing. Although Our Love documents his personal experiences with love, which in large part exposes its difficulties, maybe the most valuable part is that very same rhythmic feeling that the song “Our Love” invokes earlier in the effort.
Similar to creating an album, love consists of many moving pieces. Some are good, and others are bad. But love is a sum of all of its parts, and Caribou wants to give his audience the entire picture; one that illustrates how, even with the difficulties, the heartache and the heartbreak, love is worth it—that much like Caribou’s final product, love is beautiful.