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Suddenly (City Slang/Inertia)

The swings, roundabouts, skinned knees and smudged faces of Suddenly, are at first a series of minor jolts to a listener. Mood changes are frequent and hardly smooth, with abrupt endings and surprising shifts sometimes bringing you up short after bursts of euphoria and outbreaks of freewheeling, or moments of pronounced slumps after definite highs.

And this can happen within a track as much between tracks for Canadian Dan Snaith.

The signalling by tempo, tone and instrumentation as much as – and in truth, more than – the words tells you this is a record of upheaval. Of recovery from upheaval, maybe; of the experience of upheaval, definitely.

With Snaith’s relatively insecure voice continuing its surge to the forefront of his music, melody continues its similar rise to prominence. In Like I Loved You we get a gentle excursion which is languorous over alternately smooth and bending guitar, like light refracting, or someone’s finger manipulating the turntable. With the house piano-meets-disembodied backing voice of Never Come Back, the song takes a surge of insistent pleasure in its increasingly layered percussion and lets the naïve melody play atop it.

(Incidentally, it’s also one of those jubilant songs I suspect I will be pounding at times of need all year. Closely followed by Ravi, where Snaith takes a bubbling bassline, a high-hat rhythm and a vocal hook that celebrates its manipulated humanity, and creates four minutes of hands-in-the-air joy.)

Sunny’s Time uses a similar trick to Like I Loved You, of warping a polite sound to put you slightly off balance before you even register the contrast of the Harold Budd-like piano and the snap-breathed rapping section, while Home’s sample of “baby I’m home, I’m home” amongst ‘70s soul strings and elegant guitar is ambiguous enough to leave questions unanswered.

What specifically has been wrought on Dan Snaith – the suggestion is family-related, not least by the album’s opening track, Sister, where he sings of an exchange of promises to change and pleas that “I can’t do it all on my own” within slightly misshaped synth prettiness - is less important than the emotional landscape on which the songs are built.

So Lime, bringing to mind Everything But The Girl circa Walking Wounded in its nighttime-pulse terrain, feels balanced between a hurt past and an escape that may or may not come, the point emphasised with the snatch of a murmuring (non-Snaith) male voice twice cut off saying “I hope, as I”, after the song shifts from ‘80s Euro disco to early ‘70s film score.

The ground keeps shifting to the very end with Cloud Song, the near seven minute closing track, oscillating between conventionally attractive and distorting mirror, between sleepy melody and upending ancient synthesisers, between a treated voice repeating “please come back” at the start and Snaith’s natural tones promising “when you’re alone with your memories/I’ll give you a place to rest your head”, between light and despair.

The distance travelled by Snaith from his early days as the more mathematically inclined Manitoba and early Caribou to the bare emotions and increasing desire to paint attractively of more recent recordings is quite something. And quite something to enjoy.


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