Progress can be a hard thing to quantify. For bands, it’s often either measured by record sales, critical acclaim, or—as is the case with San Francisco band the Dodos—simple endurance. The twosome of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber have been making music together for the better part of a decade and by now they have honed their own distinct language. The records they make together as the Dodos are generally characterized by a kind of symbiotic back and forth—a balance composed of virtuoso playing, alternately-tuned guitar sounds, and insanely intricate drum patterns. That they have managed to create a sound that is instantly and distinctly recognizable as their own (and amass a devoted following) is no small feat, but figuring out how to push their sound forward without repeating themselves or abandoning their aesthetic has proven to be much trickier business.
After tinkering with their sound in a variety of ways over the past few years—employing additional musicians, sprinkling on layers of electric vibraphone, eschewing acoustic guitars for electric ones, sanding off the rough edges by hiring Phil Ek as a producer—the band seems to have come full-circle on Individ, their sixth album. Rather than look outside themselves, the duo rely instead on what has always been their greatest weapon—the sheer physicality of their playing.
Recorded hot on the heels of the sessions for 2013’s Carrier—an album seemingly haunted by the death of occasional contributing guitarist Christopher Reimer—Individ plays like a companion piece to the band’s breakthrough Visiter. “Until now there was a reason/ Let go of it,” Long sings on album opener “Precipitation”. The song—a shape-shifting acoustic-and-drums affair—serves as a kind of primer for the rest of the album. What seems like a simple bit of repetition and melody grows increasingly more forceful before exploding into a stadium-size loop of riffs and pounding drums. “Let go of it/ And get out of here/ Let’s get out of here/ For good” sings Long in what seems less like a concession of defeat and more a statement of liberation. As album openers go, it’s a doozy—six minutes of triumphantly shaking off a lot of old baggage. “We’ll keep playing/ Till there is nothing,” he promises elsewhere on “The Tide”, further establishing what could be Individ’s most prevalent and endearing theme—a sense of acceptance paired with dogged resilience.
The Dodos began their career as avowed primitivists before eventually experimenting with ways to broaden their sound. Longtime fans of the band will appreciate Individ’s back-to-basics quality, which generally forgoes electric guitars in favor of Long’s maniacal strumming and dexterous, breakneck time changes. “Competition”, the record’s first single, showcases the band at their most deceptively simple: dueling guitar lines playing against a staccato rhythm, all being tugged along by Long’s effortless vocal. In this case, the band’s reaction against perfection is what makes most of Individ so sublime. Both Long and Kroeber are virtuoso musicians, and while Long’s vocals rarely ever strain to be anything more than pleasantly plaintive, hearing he and Kroeber push themselves to the point of raggedness as musicians is what continues to make the Dodos’ music such a surprising and singular listen.
Clocking in at almost 40 minutes, the nine tracks on Individ make for an exhilarating, albeit fairly melancholy, listening experience. While the duo has not lost their youthful exuberance as players (listening to Long and Kroeber rip through “Retriever” is a potent reminder of what a thrillingly visceral band the Dodos actually are), Individ seems mostly wrapped up with very adult concerns. And while the band might never better the pop jubilance of Visiter’s “Fools”, tracks like “The Tide” and the perfectly wistful “Bubble” come mighty close. On Individ’s closing track, the sprawling, seven-minute “Pattern Shadow”, Long intones that “I cannot predict/ All your patterns/ You blew us away/ And I could not escape.” It’s unclear exactly to whom he is singing, but the shadow at the core of the song—mysterious, ever-present, ocean-sized—could be a fitting stand in for the band itself and the epic, mercurial nature of their songs. In the record’s press materials, Long explains, “This record is about accepting what is natural for you or even a part of you.” Ten years deep into their career, the Dodos have never actually steered too far from their roots, but the loose, unselfconscious feel of Individ proves that there is something to be said for recognizing and playing to your strengths, trusting your chops, and simply feeling things as intensely as you possibly can.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1DSYR2B