vrijdag 6 mei 2011

Dodos - No Color

Guest review by indiefuzz.com

As far as I am concerned the Dodos are one of the most likeable musical duos around, laying down the hull of folk on a foundation of orotund percussion in a manner that makes you want to sit by the fireplace and violently jump up and down at the same time. From 2008’s Beware of the Maniacs on, Meric Long and Logan Kroeber have very much created their own thing. References to Vampire Weekend only made sense because of the use African Rythms. But instead of VP’s merry ivy league aesthetics, the Dodos paint a more laborious décor. Compared to their breakthrough album (Visiter) the Dodos decided on more of a full-band approach on Time to die (2009), temporally adding a third band member in the person of Joe Haener on piano and xylophone. I have to admit that some of the sharpness of Visiter and of The Dodo’s live performances was lost in Time to die’s levelled production, but I still think it is a highly undervalued album, showing great progress in the field of songwriting. However you rate Time to die, it was undeniably a necessary step toward their outstanding fourth album called No Color. I tend to read too much into album titles, but if you were to ask me I’d say No Color refers to the Dodos returning to the base contrast between drum, guitar and vocals. Not that I would characterize No Color as a lo-fi album. The production might sound raw but it’s also heavily layered. Put your headphones on and you will hear Long’s guitars coming at you from every direction. Some electric, some acoustic, some gently plucked, some struck hard, but all accurately accentuating Haenner’s frantic drumming. No color feels like a dressage, changing step several times, even within songs, and graceful even when galloping at great speed. One level No Colors’ steadfast drumbeat masks the often sombre subject matter of the songs, on another level they go hand in glove. On lead track Black Night, for instance, the dominant floor tom sounds like the narrator is psychically trying break through the wall his lover has build around her or him. It can hardly get more graphic. Black Night gallops gallantly into Going Under, again title and lyrics a lot less audacious than the music. On Good American singer-songwriter Neko Case, also a member of the New Pornographers, makes her first audible appearance. Her vocal contributions to No Color are modest but effective. Perhaps the most interesting track on the album is called Sleep. More than on any other track it is a showcase for the Dodo’s mastering the art of supplying a song with many faces without splitting its personality. The central riff suggests the breezy, slightly ironic tone of a song like Queens Crazy little thing called love. The drums more inciting than ever, making Longs resigned reciting of the lyric sound rather ominous. It’s profound chorus still feeling as only part of a discharge. In the end the song floats into a string-laden psychedelic outburst, that is in no way overdone. Sleep is also a transitional track in the sense that from there on Kroebers hyper-activity somewhat decreases, giving more space to the indie folk side of The Dodo’s. This also creates some of those rare moments when The Dodos stop sounding only like the Dodos and references to other times and place in pop history, us critics desperately need, are possible. When will you go is the first Dodo track in four albums that actually sound a bit like Vampire Weekend, mainly because of Longs bouncy marabi guitarplay. It’s by far the most light-spirited track on No Color, with the song Companions as a distant second. After opening with a rather complex sounding acoustic motif Companions evolves into a surprisingly contemporary sounding indietrack that wouldn’t totally stand out on either Veckatimest or Gorilla Manor. I wonder if it wouldn’t sound even better in singer-songerwriter fashion, just Meric Long and a acoustic guitar. We might find out on the 13th of May when the Dodos will perform in the Melkweg. In the mean time I’m sure most tracks on No Color will work their way up to the top of the ‘most played’ playlist on my ipod. A few more records like this and I won’t need to remind myself that I am listening to two youngsters from San Francisco instead of a bunch of balding middle aged men from Swindon. It’s not only Longs voice that makes me feel the spirit of English Settlement hanging over everything the Dodos produce. This would make it hard for me to admit if it didn’t deserve to be called the best album I’ve listened to so far this year. Luckily it does. Manou Chen

This contribution was also posted on indiefuzz.com