Artist: The Dodos
Album: No Color
The San Francisco veterans tried avoiding the trope altogether, adding vibraphonist Joe Haener for Time to Die, whose gimmick did little to resolve the problem of the Dodos’ impending fossilization. But Haener’s gone, and it turns out the duo dilemma is not an impossible puzzle. Like the greatest of twosomes before them, the Dodos crack the code.
Nothing is fundamentally different about the method on No Color. By now, the Dodos have marked their territory. Long direly scrubs at his guitar, teetering his voice between guessing mumbles and tympanic yelps, while Kroeber drums like a mathematically inclined primate.
“Black Night” emerges as a better variant of what Time To Die was trying for. Kroeber drills in the foreground, semi-automatic as usual, and Long’s guitar is the bokeh, shining but not focal. Because he would rather be a drummer, Long accents each strum and word with a percussive edge.
Their second release, Visiter, melded pop simplicity with poetic flourish (see: “Undeclared”, ”Walking”). Where they faltered following that was their insistence of inserting virtuosic breaks prematurely; before building stormproof songs. Suddenly, it was about providing the concert showier moments. But a breakdown, much like real destruction, is hardly fun unless something of import is being damaged. The architecture of No Color’s tracks is far sturdier and when the Dodos tear it down, it only deepens their listenability.
Most of No Color’s strongest are the songs course-correcting old mistakes but, as the title suggests, a darker mood prevails. On “Companions”, Long spiders to the highest frequencies of his guitar and veils his voice in a milky frost. Kroeber showers down on “Sleep” as the sung refrain (“I cannot sleep/I cannot think/I cannot dream”) amasses a celestial body of other instruments, bearing witness to the Dodos’ first success of endless layering.
The Dodos fix as they go. They dropped four albums in five years’ time and have constantly toured a ballistic show. An overhaul of their identity could take a few more releases if they persist with a repair-on-the-run mantra rather than waiting out their vacations. But it seems the band has a better idea of what song it wants to make. Long’s ordinary-made-unordinary voice arrives to his strumming on “Don’t Try And Hide It” like it’s surprised to be headlining. It’s a beatific tune that proves the Dodos enjoyed laying No Color down. And better yet, they’re not even trying to hide it.
Grade: B (84)