As album titles go, Suddenly (★★★☆☆) would seem a misnomer. This is, after all, Dan Snaith’s first new release since 2014’s Our Love. From the first track, however, the change in tone from his last album is readily apparent. As Suddenly unfolds, it evolves and shifts its focus with staggering abruptness.
Caribou has always been a somewhat difficult project to pin down, with albums varying dramatically in tone and theme, reflecting Snaith’s own circumstances and preoccupations at a given time. While Our Love marked something of an inward turn, Suddenly turns its attention back out into the world, drawing heavily on introspective themes but drawing from an overwhelming array of influences, shifting between catchy, approachable dancefloor beats and challenging, even unsettling electronica, often all in the very same track.
Aside from the rapid-fire experimentation, this time Snaith’s vocals are notably at the forefront in a way they have not been before. Every track features vocals that are soothingly plaintive in a way that just works, providing a sense of consistency in an album that is often anything but consistent. On “Sunny’s Time” and “New Jade,” summery technicolor synths compete for space with elements borrowed from R&B and hip-hop. The closing track “Cloud Song” seems to drive home the point, beginning as a slow, atmospheric yet lighthearted wind-down track that without much warning, builds up towards a much more exuberant conclusion.
Snaith’s vision certainly makes for an interesting album, but it is the relatively cohesive tracks that work best. The opening track “Sister” is light and subdued compared to the rest of the album, but its earnest vocals, acoustic elements and tight, sparing use of vocal samples makes a powerful impression. “Never Come Back” is a five-minute festival-ready bop shot through with an instantly likeable earnestness.
So many styles, themes, and references are present on this album that most listeners should at least find something to like in Suddenly, but by cramming them in at such close quarters, their individual effects are dampened, taking a backseat to a pervasive sense of deliberate chaos. Even when this complexity is in many ways the entire point, it is nevertheless as jarring as it is compelling. Depending on the expectations brought into it, a listener may find Suddenly challenging, fascinating, frustrating, or even all three at once.
Suddenly is available on most streaming services, including Spotify and Apple Music, and for sale on Amazon.com.
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