BY Vish KhannaPublished Aug 21, 2007

Keen to challenge listeners with forays into eclectic noise and electronica, Dan Snaith stakes out new territory with the remarkable Andorra, a stirring pop masterpiece. Since 2005's The Milk of Human Kindness, Snaith completed a doctorate in mathematics and re-released albums done under his old moniker, Manitoba. All that concentration and reflection obviously triggered something significant for Caribou because his latest batch of songs sends him down an adventurous route. The most obvious distinction about Andorra is the focus on Snaith's voice. Content to let a beat or drone speak for him in the past, Snaith sings his heart out here and the ambient, airy quality of his processed voice is glorious. With all the emotion of Pet Sounds and fantastical anarchy of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Andorra's music is expansive and brash, with swirling melodies gliding over inventive percussion. For all its insistent stomping, "Melody Day" is a mature yet exuberant emotional release, while "After Hours" is a sweeping production art piece. Jeremy Greenspan of the Junior Boys collaborates on "She's the One" and the result is the most haunting of the unexpected love songs found here, including the fluttery "Desiree.” Always innovative, Caribou does no wrong with the unexpectedly cohesive and romantic Andorra.

What's got you singing?
It's not so much about lyrical songwriting, where I'm chronicling things going on in my life, but I realized that I hadn't done much with song composition – chord changes, melodies and harmonies all hooking together – and I wanted to explore that arc of a song.

Was this a tricky record to make?
With each track, I was writing the music and fitting the production in with what suited the song. I really love that lush sound with a lot of instrumentation flying at you, which is what was popular with the Zombies or the Beach Boys. The production wasn't an afterthought but this time I let the music be led by the song itself, which is something totally different for me.

Did the math degree profoundly affect your music?
Nothing profound, no. When I was doing both, they were kind of good foils – one was different from the other and they each gave me a break. They're both playing around with abstract ideas and fitting things together in different combinations and experimenting with ideas and seeing what results you get. They're both like a mental challenge for me.
(Merge Records)

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