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A bean bag chair. That’s how I’d like to characterize Andorra, the newest album from Caribou, aka Dan Snaith, on Merge Records. Utterly comfortable. Something upon which to recline, repose and forget the rest of the world. With this album Caribou has resurrected the poppy hooks and harmonies of the late sixties and early seventies. Each song blends Snaith’s dreamy vocals with jangly guitars and synthesizer flutes. Looking at all of Caribou’s albums in succession this is the logical destination. The sound has been cultivated and honed with greater efficiency with each successive release. After my first listen to Andorra I rooted around in my records and found Caribou’s first release Start Breaking My Heart. At the time Caribou was known as Manitoba (Snaith was forced to change the name after being threatened with legal action by the Canadian Province of Manitoba). In addition to the name change the aural texture of the album is vastly different from Andorra. Start Breaking is more akin to Boards of Canada, using a much more electro-centric approach to song writing. With each subsequent release the electronics were dialed back and Dan’s confidence as a singer increased. My personal favorite is Up In Flames, his second LP released on Leaf, which balances perfectly his forward looking electronica and retro influences.
Back to the bean bag chair. While it is quite comfortable it quickly becomes tiresome and bad for your back, and it just plain clashes with the rest of your decor. Andorra maintains a steady pulse from beginning to end. I’ve thought hard about what songs I’d like to reference in this review as examples, but have had a hard time even distinguishing one from another. Unfortunately nothing stands out (unlike his previous albums). Pushing too far towards the 70s pop end of things, Snaith’s influences are all too present. None of the songs are able to truly twist the sound into something new (unlike his previous albums). His recording wizardry and technical abilities are never in dispute, but they do little to take this release beyond his last.