Caribou – Our Love
After seven albums, Dan Snaith is beginning to make his accomplishments seem effortless. In Our Love, his latest release, Snaith, who goes by the stage name Caribou, creates a dense forest of electronic patterns, proving himself to be a true master of the dance floor.
The album opens with “Can’t Do Without You,” the perfect summer dance single. Although it appears uncomplicated at first, with lyrics that simply repeat the title over and over, this opening track dives deeper through sonic levels than any typical club song. As a single, “Can’t Do Without You” is beautiful and hopeful – bouncing and rising, with the listener’s heart following close behind. In the context of Our Love, however, the track is tragic. In interviews, Caribou has explained that the constant loop of the words “can’t do without you” points to the dysfunctional traits of love. The album as a whole presents the stark contrast between an idealistic view of love and its melancholic, sometimes obsessive, realities.
In keeping with his particular style of hypnotic dance melodies, Caribou launches his listener into the full sound of “Silver.” “I wish I never met you,” insists Caribou, his voice behind thick layers of trance. In the middle of the album comes “Second Chance,” a key moment in which trance church bells tumble down and form the backdrop for featured artist Jessy Lanza’s pleas of love. “Our Love,” which lends its title to the album, is Caribou’s most uplifting song as it exclusively presents the goodness of love. It’s also full of surprises, such as an outro of violin mixed with digitized beats matched to the bow strokes, all put together by none other than indie hero Owen Pallett.
Near the close of the album in “Back Home,” Caribou breaks out into strikingly honest lyrics: “I know that there’s something missing / does it mean you’re leaving me?” His dismal words segue from a jolting techno rise into an echoic ode as he asks,“Why is this what we’ve chosen?’
In this dance album, Caribou’s sound goes beyond movement; the warmth of Caribou’s crescendoing synths offers an escape from everything corporeal. His closing lyrics in “Your Love Will Set You Free” shift the album’s title from a past feeling to a present one and back again. In this conclusion, Snaith finally exposes the true heart of his album: a man who is powerless to the unpredictability of love.
Tinashe – Aquarius
Aquarius, the debut album from R&B singer Tinashe, is a whirlwind of big emotions and big names. Named after Tinashe’s zodiac sign, the album features well-known collaborators and producers like rappers ScHoolboy Q, A$AP Rocky, and Future. Tinashe began her music career in 2012 with the release of two mixtapes In Case We Die and Reverie. A year later, she released her third mixtape Black Water.
Aquarius explores the ups and downs of being in love. With melodic crooning over a groovy bass and chiming notes, the eponymous first track establishes the tone for the album. “Welcome to my world,” she whispers as the song’s percussive layers fade out. The song is a strong start for an album that only gets murkier as it goes on. Tinashe takes us on an emotional rollercoaster of falling in love, breaking up, and making up. She sings about the profound joys of love in “How Many Times,” then shifts to heartbreak on “All Hands on Deck.” This rollercoaster, though musically pleasing, lacks a peak – we never get a gut-wrenching lament nor a euphoric proclamation of love like Beyoncé’s “XO.” Instead, the album is more of a collection of radio-ready singles, which compromises the logical progression between songs. This is not unforgivable, however, for a young artist trying to establish herself – concept albums can wait.
In Aquarius, Tinashe experiments with quite a number of industry veterans, and does so with mixed results. Chart-topping producers Mike Will Made It and DJ Mustard both offer excellent tracks. But, her album pays the price for its superb production and luscious beats with a jarring incoherence, the result of its array (or disarray) of musical styles. In the end, this disjointedness makes it hard to define Tinashe’s style.
The track with the most potential, “Indigo Child (Interlude),” is cut short after only a minute and a half. While it lasts, it captures the listener with a build-up of distorted bass haunted by trickling piano keys and capped off with reverberating drums that never quite climax. Tracks like these show that Tinashe could, possibly, become an excellent artist. Aquarius has the elements of a great album – vocal passion and quality production – but an effective synthesis of the two has yet to be achieved.