Taking his talents for strangeness and mood-making in a very different direction, Connan Mockasin's second solo album is a far cry from the whimsical psych pop he made with the Mockasins, and pretty far removed from his acclaimed 2010 album, Forever Dolphin Love. Yet Caramel does take musical and thematic inspiration from that album's poignantly woozy title track, which Erol Alkan reworked into an indie club hit. Mockasin claimed that the story Caramel's songs told picked up where Forever Dolphin Love left off, though this isn't the kind of concept album with a strong narrative thrust. Instead, he riffs on notions of romance and the kind of sounds and images the title Caramel suggests: the album overflows with sweetly sensual, acid rock-meets-R&B songs and guitars so languid they seem to stretch and drip. He does a better than average job of serving up and sending up all of sexy music's signifiers on the album's instrumentals, but it's when Mockasin adds his reedy tenor to the mix that Caramel really gets weird. His helium-laced singing on "I'm the Man, That Will Find You" evokes Ween's homages to Prince -- and even some of the Purple One's own oddities -- but the songwriting is traditional enough to envision someone like Bread singing it as well. Meanwhile, "Do I Make You Feel Shy?" recalls Ariel Pink's skill at making music that captures the awkward and funny moments of sexuality as well as the tender and erotic ones. Strangely, though, Caramel's relative focus ends up working against Mockasin at times; aside from the gauzy psychedelia of "It's Your Body, Pt. 1," most of the five-part suite that makes up a good chunk of the album is too formless to keep listeners' attention. Considering that Mockasin wrote and recorded Caramel on his own in Tokyo, it's no wonder that the album has a hermetic quality that brings out the best and worst of his indulgent side. In its own way, it's some of his strangest music, and might appeal more to fans who appreciate his willingness to try anything once than those expecting a repeat of his previous album.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares