Balance is the key thing to have on an album, knowing when to stop with one thing and continue with another, or add or subtract sounds. Caribou is normally brilliant at this and has offered some absolutely brilliant electronic music in the past. This album kind of feels like a step back though. Caribou has said this album was made to be so simple yet accessible and engaging. It’s really patchy on the latter side of those those things.
Our Love opens with the song ‘Can’t Do Without You’ which repeats the song title about 100 times throughout the song. This one of the big problems on this album, it’s use of repetitiveness. Not that repetitive music is always bad, when it’s done well it can be beautiful. The problem is, the repetition doesn’t serve a purpose like you feel Caribou wants you to feel it does. It’s not there to hammer in a message as it would be impossible to honestly gather any emotion off of four words said over and over. It gets to the point where they’re not even registering as words anymore, just sounds. For an album that is being called emotionally potent, it makes it extremely hard to connect in any way.
There is a lot of great instrumentation on this album though, the songs ‘Mars’ and ‘Our Love’ are two of the times the repetitiveness works. He throws some surprising elements into the music that makes the songs feel like they’re actually progressing. The percussion on this album for the most part is actually fantastic and one of the things that really varies throughout as he nails the balance between drum machines and real percussion. Some of the more poignant synths on the songs are brilliant such as on the song ‘back home’ which is probably the highlight of the album as Caribou brings a whole host of different sounds, paired up with the vocals to create something beautiful.
But for every great moment in the music on this album there is one that throws me off, for every high there’s something to bring me back down. For every great synth line, there’s some more ambient synths that kind of feel like they’re there to fill space rather than to create any emotional punch. So many of the vocal samples on this record that can be great at first, become so irritating by the end of the song, and even on the songs without vocal sampling such as ‘Second Chance’ the instrumentation doesn’t allow for any emotional connection. The vocals on this song sound like an RnB track but she sings around these fluttering synths that sound so out of place with her voice to the point it makes her voice off-putting.
This LP is one of the most mixed of the year in terms of stability. It’s an uneasy listen with so many of the songs promising brilliance but they never seem to go anywhere. For every interesting instrumental choice there’s an irritating vocal sample; for every passionate vocal performance there’s rarely an instrumental that will complement it.