Release Date 08/24/2021
(Merge Records) SubModern, AAA
In 2014, Dan Snaith aka Caribou released Our Love to overwhelming critical acclaim and top-five Album of the Year positions from the likes of The Guardian, Mixmag, Loud and Quiet, and NME. Now, five years later, Caribou returns with his new studio album Suddenly, a warm, untamable, and constantly surprising record about family and the changes we go through as those relationships evolve. Our Love was an open-armed exploration of the concept of love in its grandest form, both as an expression of gratitude to his fans and as an examination of the one thing that matters most in life. Suddenly, however, takes that concept and winnows it down, directly applying it to real life and the people to whom that love means the most.
“It used to be easier to make music that existed in my imagination only,” says Snaith. “That sense of exploration and discovery, the visceral excitement of creating something, is still there, but it doesn’t seem like it’s possible any longer to have the changes in my life not make an impression on my music.”
On this album, the exploration of love for the people in Snaith’s life is deeply personal and direct, little snapshots of his own life seeping into his music. In fact, many of the tracks are written through the eyes of others; Snaith puts himself in the shoes of his loved ones and tackles what they’re going through head-on.
As with previous Caribou albums, Suddenly was mined from hundreds of draft ideas (this time over 900). “I record music every day, and I love it—as much or more than I have always done. I feel very lucky—the thrill has never, ever left me,” Snaith says. This results in a daunting process of piecing these ideas together, a process that has become increasingly familiar to Snaith. “There’s this contradiction between the day-to-day work of making more and more musical ideas that seem like they are adding nothing, and the gradual accretion of that stuff becoming the album.” He has come to realize, though, that there’s a point at which that changes: “At some point, it all adds up into some bigger picture,” he says. “How that happens is always a mystery to me. I just follow my instincts.”
There is a moment where the daunting piling up of rough ideas morphs into an album quickly taking shape. “For the last few albums at least, there’s been a point about three-quarters of the way through where I work late into the night (as usual), but when I try and go to bed, ideas keep forcing me to get up and go back to the studio again,” Snaith recalls. “It happens over and over in one night. I can feel the gears whirring as I lie there trying to sleep, and I can’t ignore the ideas for fear that it will be gone when I wake up the next morning.”
Snaith has come to recognize that once these moments begin to disturb him in the night, the process of the album must be headed towards its conclusion. So here, in a quick burst—after five years of ideas—is a complete project.
There are a few subtle differences in the process that set Suddenly apart from any other Caribou album. For the first time ever, Snaith sings on every single track. “I’m not a strong singer,” he admits with humility. “It’s taken me a long time to build the confidence and find a way to sing my songs that I can live with.” On Suddenly, it’s clear Snaith is in that place; his voice is everywhere on the album, clear and confident. The melodies are more complex than they’ve ever been, and Snaith’s voice is right there at the forefront. Not only is he more present than ever, but for the first time since 2005, Snaith is the only lead vocalist (though there are, of course, some sampled vocals from his extensive record collection). This was initially unintentional, but as the album developed, Snaith realized “that’s the only way it could be.”
In a sense, this is not quite true. There is one other voice, a very special guest contribution: Snaith’s mother. She appears briefly and angelically on “Sister.” “My parents moved from England to Canada before I was born, and they used to make tapes to mail back to my grandparents in England,” Snaith explains. “The line I used is my mum singing a nursery rhyme to my sister when she was just a baby. For all that I’ve said about putting my life into my music, that moment is the most personal.” It’s a fitting and touching moment, one of many tiny moments of Snaith’s life placed lovingly into the music. “I haven’t told her she’s on there yet—I’m hoping it’s a welcome surprise!” he laughs.
Recorded almost entirely alone at his home studio, there were three crucial days where Snaith did have a collaborator. Longtime friend Colin Fisher plays saxophone and guitar on Suddenly, but as something of a jack-of-all-trades and, more importantly, as a guiding force, his touches are all over the record. Fisher flew over from Toronto and stayed with Snaith and his family who were immediately drawn to him, Snaith’s wife dubbing him the Laughing Buddha for his near constant hyena-like laugh and his calm benevolence. “Aside from recording, he also changed the whole atmosphere in the house in a really nice way,” Snaith says. “It was great to see my kids trying to figure out this puzzle of a person who appeared out of nowhere. He would go out for a stroll and reappear with a Turkish flute that he had bought nearby. And then sit playing while they bounced on the trampoline beside him.”
So for all the strings Snaith has to his bow these days, this is the drive to continue to make Caribou albums. Full bodies of work where Snaith is able to evaluate things, look at those around him, and celebrate them. As his passion and joy in music-making remains as fresh as ever, Suddenly is the purest example of this yet.