The Dodos - No Color

Editors Note: Today's review of the Dodos' No Color comes to Gas Lantern Media from special guest columnist Kellen O'Brien. Album is streaming via grooveshark at the bottom. Enjoy! - Nate

Some bands evolve in the wrong direction. I don’t necessarily mean that they devolve, although this happens too. I am talking about bands that grow, but in a way that dampens the original spirit of their work. When I listen to the Dodos, I mainly hear the Dodos signature sound: fast acoustic guitar, intricate percussion, yearning vocals, and a whole lot of rhythm. After three albums, and a measure of success, the band’s peaks and valleys have been smoothed out on No Color. This is a natural process, and even though their tricks have become a bit more predictable, Meric Long and Logan Kroeber have added a new set of potent songs to their repertoire.

“Going Under,” the album’s second song, is undoubtedly its highlight. Opener “Black Night” is dressed as a signature track, but after churning for four minutes, it filters out and segues so fluidly that casual listeners won’t even notice that a new song has begun. “Going Under” pushes forward relentlessly. With dynamic tempo changes, a mixture of percussive flourishes, and guitar grooves it will be an absolute burner in concert. It also epitomizes the band’s sound.

As you listen to the Dodos, their rhythm is all the more apparent, because their best songs seem unstructured and chaotic. It is only at the end of the song that the listener notices the strands that tie the whole thing together. “Going Under” weaves in and out so many times that it could be three different songs. Near the end of Black Night this quality vanishes and the songs become a bit tepid. The first few times I listened, I viewed the album’s middle as a sonic plateau. The Dodos are beginning to favor subtlety instead of explosion, and although this may add depth to their sonic palette, I am worried that it might erode their core sound.

“Good” features nuanced vocal patterns and subdued distortion. Rather than charge to the gate, it disperses slowly, which allows the listener to appreciate the song’s many textures. “When Will You Go” hints at more atmospheric production. The song contains many of the band’s signature maneuvers, but its background overdubbing gives the song an airier quality. Due to its jazz picking, “Companions” begins hypnotically, but the spacier vocals will cause listeners to zone out. “Companions” and “Hunting Season” have lamentable qualities, but fans will able to listen to the album from first song to last. This is an impressive feat for any band in our age of 30-second samples.

Whereas Visiter was raw and unrefined but wholly unique, No Color is well executed and energetic but beginning to sound like other bands. Some of the original spark has been lost because the songs are more digestible, but the more I listen to No Color the more I like it. After The Dodos opened for the New Pornographers last fall, Neko Case signed up to sing backup on about half of their songs. Her masterful voice adds shades to several songs, particularly “Don’t Try and Hide It,” but if her presence had not been declared, it would have barely registered. Even though they are evolving toward the middle of the indie spectrum, the Dodos have retained their signature sound. More importantly,by making Neko Case a footnote, The Dodos have retained my faith that they are one of the best young bands out there. I will have my favorite spot picked out at the Bluebird when they play Denver this June.

No comments:

Post a Comment