Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Dan Snaith hones his songwriting strengths while continuing to push his sonic template.

The new Caribou record is called Suddenly, but there’s nothing sudden about the career of its sole member, Dan Snaith, who started out making ambient electronic music in his bedroom in Dundas, Ont., in the late nineties. Back then, his goal was to be played on late-night campus radio in Hamilton. A few years later, while his early records were getting rave reviews around the world, he was devoting as much time to his PhD in math as he was to his music. In 2010, 10 years into his professional recording career making largely instrumental electronic music tinged with psychedelia, he released his breakthrough record, Swim, which led to larger and younger audiences. Ten years after that, he was able to sell out most of his current tour five months in advance, with very little new music to show for it when tickets went on sale.

Suddenly will finally come out Friday, Feb. 28. It’s Snaith’s strongest work to date, which the first three singles suggest: the four-on-the-floor woozy pop of You and I, the funky soul-sampling Home and the revved-up nineties house-music throwback Never Come Back.

Elsewhere, however, Snaith hones his songwriting strengths while continuing to push his sonic template. Suddenly features some of his most tender and abstract moments (bookends Sister and Cloud Song) beside deeper dives into hip-hop beats (New Jade), disco (Lime), future jazz (Sunny’s Time) and quiet-storm R&B (Like I Loved You). Not that Snaith ever sounds like he’s aping these genres; despite the disparity of influences, every song on Suddenly sounds distinctly like Caribou.

Story continues below advertisement

That’s been true since Day 1. Fan Richard Reed Parry remembers being jolted out of bed while hearing Dundas, Ontario, the opening track on Snaith’s debut album, Start Breaking My Heart (the musician went by the name Manitoba at the time) being played off the top of CBC Radio’s Brave New Waves one midnight in 2001.

“I had tingles,” recalls the Montreal musician, who would join Arcade Fire two years later, but at that point had just started the instrumental Bell Orchestre (who also have a long-overdue new album out this year). “It was so enrapturing: two four-note riffs and a house beat with a slight twist. It was not trying to be slick or trying to hide the wires, to mask itself. But it was also banging and interesting and really beautiful. I knew I was listening to a totally unique perspective, and I wanted to listen to anything this guy does.”

In recent years, the 41-year-old Snaith has been turning his attention to old-school songwriting skills. That started on Swim, when he wanted to write more personal lyrics. That album’s lead single, Odessa, was later covered by both Sarah Harmer and Owen Pallett.

“That was really gratifying,” he says of his peers’ nods. “It indicated that I wasn’t just living in the world of electronic music. I mean, Sarah Harmer: her whole world is songwriting.” Coincidentally, Harmer’s first new album in 10 years, Are You Gone, was released just a week before Suddenly; Pallett, who, like Snaith, hasn’t released new music since 2014 – has a new album out this summer.

There’s a direct link between Odessa and the Suddenly track New Jade. The latter is “about an explosive and traumatic divorce in my wife’s family,” Snaith explains. “It was a difficult period, but something that ultimately was for the best: getting out of a toxic relationship. Then I realized after writing New Jade that Odessa is about the same relationship, but it was a fantasy back then. It was a difficult marriage, and my wife and I were like, ‘Oh man, if she could only get out of that situation.’ And she did 10 years later. These songs are siblings somehow.”

The rest of Suddenly is very much informed by encroaching middle age and “inevitable things that caught up with me for the first time,” the father of two says. “Deaths in my wife’s family, amongst friends, my friend had a serious health scare – the moments when it feels like the lens through which you’re looking at the world has shifted. I’ve been called on to be supportive or comforting for people close to me, and to make something positive and affirming out of difficult times. That’s what the music does for me, fill that therapeutic role. I’m singing in their voice or singing to the people to whom these things have happened.”

As his writing has become more personal, so has the music. Influences were more transparent on early Caribou records, though really only obvious to music nerds with records by Four Tet, Silver Apples or Mercury Rev in their collections. His Polaris-winning 2007 album, Andorra, stemmed from his love of the Zombies and very early Vangelis.

Story continues below advertisement

“Looking back on that, I’m proud of it for a number of reasons, but I also thought, hang on, I’m not making music in the 1960s,” Snaith says. “When people were making those records, they weren’t being conservative and looking backwards, they were trying to make the most progressive, modern-sounding music they could.”

That led to Swim, which “connected with what was going on in London’s underground club world,” says Snaith, who has lived in the British capital since 2003, although his collaborators are still largely Canadian, including high-school friend Ryan Smith. “I felt, okay, here’s something I have to add, but that also relates in a contemporary way to my peers. It shouldn’t just mean something personally to me. It should have some dialogue with the culture it’s created in.”

Snaith’s adopted home of London is currently awash in a new wave of jazz that shares influences with his early work: Sun Ra, Dorothy Ashby and other interstellar explorers. Yet Snaith is largely a lone wolf. “It’s exciting for there to be a scene that’s generating that much excitement around that music,” he says, “but for me, those aren’t my strengths anymore. I never practise an instrument anymore. If I play a part on a record, I just play it once, and then not again until we start touring. Jazz music requires that kind of discipline and performance facility. The way I make music is quite lonely – let’s say solitary.”

That changes when it comes time to assemble the live show. Snaith is reconvening the trio he’s had since at least 2009 – Smith, Brad Weber and John Schmersal – who are now spread out in Toronto, L.A. and the San Francisco Bay Area. Rehearsals only ever take place right before a tour.

“We reverse-engineer our live show out of these studio creations,” Snaith explains. “It’s an entirely collaborative process. We exchange ideas all the time [online beforehand], and then we lock ourselves in a room for about a month. I cannot wait for that whole side of things.” That’s when, suddenly, everything starts to come together.

Find out what’s new on Canadian stages from Globe theatre critic J. Kelly Nestruck in the weekly Nestruck on Theatre newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies