The Dodos have decided to put away the acoustic guitar for most of their new record Carrier and, truth be told, it’s not a bad move. Their sound has always been percussion-driven, with the guitar spending as much time beating out a rhythm as it does melodizing. The subtle electric crunches chosen are just enough ringing tension to set things in motion. That said, this does not take away from their ability to softly sweep in and waltz you about. There is still a lot of subtle tenderness, in true Dodos fashion. Songs like “Holidays” and “Death” are practically lullabies. Sad lullabies.
“Transformer” is a bit of a slow choice for an opener, mysterious but sluggish. Things get going on “Substance,” which, for a split second, conjures Jimmy Eat World but quickly forays into an off-time beat with an eventual big-but-intimate refrain, “And you will forget I will remember.” “Confidence” starts with a strumming pulse and a gentle push and then the beat comes in, and eventually the line “Don’t slow down” takes us into a veritable beat fest with some pretty decent shredding as far as “acoustic indie rock” duos go. And this eventually explodes into a punk rock beat, just to take it all the way. Not slowing down: ACHIEVED.
Dodos sound like Shins every once in a while, which is no insult. But the biggest thing about Dodos is they are not predictable. Their structures aren’t entirely bizarro-avant-garde, but they do make use of some interesting changes, counter rhythms, etc. “The Current” makes good use of a time interplay between the melody and the beat. It hiccups, but in a very engaging way. Your head is challenged as you listen, and the song is REALLY GOOD. It even makes use of some nice “arena” guitars on the bridge.
Carrier is a good album, and doesn’t go so far afield as to leave long-time fans confused. Maybe the opening track was a poor choice, but the closer couldn’t be more perfect. “The Ocean” is that closer, and it is a haunting, open-ended track that rounds things up superbly. “It’s only the ocean. Subject to others, subject to no one” he says, before giving you one last taste of heavy percussion and guitar. There were touches of a heavier sound on earlier albums, but here it is fully realized, and it works.