Merge Records

Caribou’s Dan Snaith has never hidden his affection for psychedelia — it’s clearly there in the singsong cadences that mingled with mid-’90s indie rock and Endtroducing-influenced electronica on his 2005 effort The Milk of Human Kindness. However he’s never allowed it the free reign that he does on Andorra. Opener and first single “Melody Day” is an instant stunner — a driving snare beat piercing through a haze of jangling guitars warbling flutes and waves of sound straight from “Strawberry Fields” all capped by a sweetly insistent vocal line somewhere between Elliot Smith and The Zombies. It’s a grand statement of an opening number with Snaith demonstrating how far his songwriting has come in the past two years. The rest of the album follows suit drawing heavily from the music of the late ’60s not just in terms of melodic structure but in the desire to cram as many ideas into each song as will coherently fit. Each track contains an abundance of background noises — whorls of orchestration and keyboard waves — giving the impression that the melodies immaculate as they are are buoyed on the surface of a deeper sonic sea. Ironically given both the nature of psychedelia and the amount of musical ideas at play Andorra is also Snaith’s most focused effort to date. There are no extraneous doodles as on Milk no departures into incongruently modern soundscapes. Instead the album follows a clear progression. Early tracks draw more heavily from the sounds of the past — “She’s the One” co-written with Junior Boy Jeremy Greenspan pairs a Beach Boys-inspired vocal line with a subtly insistent doo-wop backdrop but by the time “Sundialing” hits with its tastefully incorporated post-rock influence it hardly sounds out of place. While album-closer “Niobe” comes closest to something that’d be found on Milk Andorra has taken such care in building up to it that the nine-minute epic burbling synths and all becomes a perfectly logical conclusion to the retro-minded experimentation of the earlier tracks. That’s Andorra’s greatest success. It captures the spirit of wonder and uncertainty that characterized the original psychedelic movement but doesn’t restrict itself to intentionally primitive production or purely analogue instrumentation. It’s not a nostalgia piece though nostalgia’s certainly a part of it. Rather it’s an effort to recapture the vitality of a period when musicians were realizing just how much was possible in the context of rock ’n’ roll.