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Album reviews: Caribou, Princess Nokia and Soccer Mommy

Caribou –Suddenly

★★★★☆

In the years leading up to Dan Snaith’s seventh album as Caribou, the Canada-born musician underwent some dramatic experiences. First, his second daughter’s arrival in the back of a car on a busy London street, and secondly, the unexpected death of a close relative. Yet there’s nothing maudlin about Suddenly. It's a typically kaleidoscopic burst of the colour from Caribou, and is warmly enveloping throughout. 

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What Suddenly does so majestically is conjure a sense of the familiar, with Snaith’s soothing vocals wafting over each of its 12 intricately crafted electronic tracks, while surprising the listener at every turn. “You and I” twists from a dreamy, melancholic reflection on grief (“It feels like there’s a hole inside / that just won’t go away”) into a jubilant chorus of sampled yelps, while on “Sunny’s Time”, a woozy piano is joined by urgent rap vocals, extending the hip-hop-inspired beats of his 2014 album Our Love. In addition to devouring hip hop as he collected sounds for his new album, Snaith listened to old records, and “Home” samples soul singer Gloria Barnes’s life-affirming track of the same name. 

As beautiful as it is exciting, Suddenly is an uplifting album that embraces the change and shifting perspectives that life throws our way. EB

Princess Nokia – Everything Sucks and Everything is Beautiful

★★★★☆

“The bitch is back.” So declares Princess Nokia on the opening track of Everything Sucks, one of two albums she's releasing this week. Artists dropping one album in the space of 12 months is no longer a novel concept, but for the US-Puerto Rican rapper born Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, these two works represent every facet of her intriguing and often complex nature.

Recorded over a week in New York, Everything Sucks is the brash, unapologetic sister to the more sensitive Everything is Beautiful. As “Harley Quinn” would suggest, Princess Nokia takes inspiration from some of popular culture’s more ruthless characters; on “Crazy House” she raps in a low growl over frenzied piano sequences, police sirens and sexual moans: “I’m the young Lorena Bobbit, if I want it, Imma cop it.”

The songs on Everything is Beautiful, by contrast, are warm and sun-dappled; reminiscent of the uplifting, gospel-influenced hip hop of Chance the Rapper. They’re still built largely on piano-based instrumentation, but here the notes are chirpy and bright – there’s a vinyl crackle on “Gemini” that needle-drops an old-school beat as Princess Nokia raps with the assurance of a seasoned star.

As much as industry figures like to proclaim the album format is tired, we still expect these bodies of work to represent the artist. With two vastly different records, Princess Nokia has offered as in-depth and personal an insight into her identity as fans could hope for. ROC

Soccer Mommy – Color Theory

★★★★☆

22-year-old Sophie Allison was crowned the queen of bedroom pop two years ago. On her bitingly honest debut album Clean, she snarled lines like “I don’t wanna be your f***ing dog” over spare throwback guitar. On her new record, Color Theory, she ruminates on childhood, mental health and family issues with a newly refined sound.

Soccer Mommy’s production has evolved considerably, coalescing into a specific, timeworn aesthetic. She used a sampling keyboard and string arrangements drawn from old floppy discs to recreate the sound of a “dusty old cassette tape” that has warped over time. She also enlisted her band in the recording process for the first time.

This new focus pays off on tracks like “night swimming”, where the instrumentation reflects the title by creating an atmospheric ebb and flow. It would be calming if not for the sense of unease gradually created by the lyrics: “Watch me sink beneath the water like a stone.” 

Varied guitar textures are layered throughout single “circle the drain”, where Allison calmly sings about clinging to the dark of her room. This sense of disconnect is key to her songwriting: brutal honesty sung with sunny, matter-of-fact vocals. In “crawling in my skin”, a shimmering melody accompanies claustrophobic lyrics about being trapped inside your own mind.

The colour concept that roughly structures the album works best on the chilling “yellow is the color of her eyes”. Over nostalgic, jangly guitars, Allison describes how she “can’t erase the hue” of her terminally ill mother’s eyes - an image anyone who’s had to deal with a loved one will find haunting.

She closes with the dread-filled “grey light”, which proves her commitment to a glitchier aesthetic by disappearing in a fuzz of feedback.

Soccer Mommy’s sparkling choruses are still extremely hummable, and appear like rays of early morning sunlight on an album that isn’t afraid to toy with the dark. She has pulled off the difficult trick of developing a new signature sound, without losing the personal perspective that separated her from the pack in the first place. BY