Song of the Summer? Caribou’s “Can’t Do Without You”

“Can’t Do Without You” by Caribou 

Jonathan May

My quest for the perfect summer song has taken me through many genres. This track, by Canadian recording artist Caribou (the moniker of Dan Snaith), probably best fits in the dance genre, although it’s much quieter than any traditional dance floor track. The full album Our Love will be out this October; the artist released this song online in June of this year.

I was initially taken aback by the song’s simplicity. Though it adds layers and volume as it progresses, the track centers on the simple lyrics “I can’t do without you,” which captures a quiet emotional center around which the song revolves. The powerful statement “I can’t do without you” obviously holds two meanings: one, that the speaker can’t survive without the addressee, and two, that the speaker can’t perform in any sense of the infinitive without the addressee.

The song’s musicality is ultimately a result of the piling on of various layered dance elements, but the slow build with which they’re constructed really captures a summertime mood. What begins as a quiet emotional statement takes on synthesized development and percussive strength as it swells; ultimately the song’s various elements accrete into something that verges on the electronic-epiphanic before fading into silence. I appreciate the song’s singular focus and its formulaic progression because they give familiarity to a feeling that can often be ambiguous. Whether the listener empathizes or not, the song still makes a beautiful statement, perfect for a summer afternoon with someone dear.

Jonathan May watches too much television, but he’s just playing catch-up from a childhood spent in Zimbabwe. You can read his poetry at, follow him on Twitter at @jonowenmay, or email him at


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