I will already admit that if you compare my review of Andorra to that of my review for Caribou's The Milk Of Human Kindness, I'm going to come across as both hypocritical and a bit wishy-washy. In my defense, I will say that my opinions of the latter album changed quite a bit over time (especially after I wrote the review) and I found myself really loving the release and even going so far as to include it in the top 10 of my favorite albums of 2005. The slight incoherence of the release threw me off at first, but seemed to make a lot of sense after awhile, making for a varied listen that still gets a lot of play.
It seems that in the time since that release, Dan Snaith has set aside some of his more eclectic personalities in an attempt to create a much more cohesive and very song-oriented release. Although you can certainly hear his own stylistic touches, the nine-song, forty minute release is more influenced by kaleidoscopic pop music of the 60s, with multi-tracked breathy vocals, dense instrumentation, and some occasional rhythmic flourishes and electronic embellishments that give away its true era. With five songs named after women, and just about every other song touching on it, this might be the closest thing to a full-on batch of love songs that Snaith ever writes.
It starts off on a very strong foot, as "Melody Day" bursts out of the gates with crisp drums, multiple guitar melodies, fuzzy bass, flutes, synth washes, and multi-tracked vocals. With expansive choruses and several nice dynamic shifts, it may very well be one of the best pop songs he's ever written. "Sandy" keeps things moving nicely with another wall-of-sound style pop piece full of more sparkling instrumentation, and despite a few muffled drum bursts it starts to hint at what ails the album as a whole.
Besides the lyrics, that is. Combined with the glossy instrumentation, lines like 'Sometimes in her eyes / I see forever' sometimes come up feeling a bit hippy-dippy, and it's magnified even further as the songs themselves start to creep even further towards the sappy side during the second half of the release. "Desiree" is almost completely punch-less, floating on piles of synth strings, flutes, and multi-tracked vocals, while "Sundialing" builds some nice tension throughout (sounding sort of like "Barnowl" from The Milk Of Human Kindness), but never really has any sort of pay off. The worst offender, though, is "Irene," as it swirls through two minutes of low-key drum machine patters and pitch-warbled synths before adding a few more melodic elements at the end.
At nearly nine minutes, the album closer of "Niobe" is the sort of slightly-excessive and odd track that really works well. Building slowly with layered synth arpeggios, breathy vocals, and spacey synths, it keeps teasing the listener by dropping back to nearly nothing before it piles things on for a trippy finale. Although it still has plenty to love, ultimately Andorra feels a bit too much on the safe side considering the past work of Snaith. It's pleasing, and sometimes outstanding, but it ultimately feels a bit too safe and soft.