The success of Individ, the new album from The Dodos, lies in the incongruity of its different elements. The Dodos layer each song with intensely kinetic drums and rhythmically off-putting strumming, complemented by simple, repetitive melodies and catchy hooks. If the group had tried to match the melodies to the backing tracks, crafting similarly frenetic vocal parts, then the music would have failed; it would have devolved into a chaotic mess. The mismatched elements on each song create a consistently jumbled bag of sounds that seems to coalesce into a cohesive whole despite itself.
“Precipitation”, the opening track, is perhaps the best example of this incongruity. The song begins with a repeated, distorted, metallic sounding four chord pattern, creating a wash of sound that will continue throughout the duration of the track. The driving drum beat comes in softly underneath the laid back vocals of lead singer Meric Long. The song continues on this way until a hectic strumming pattern comes in. The vocals come back, repeat, then a new sonic element is added. The song follows this structure until it reaches its combustible peak – then it abruptly ends, leaving you confused and a little out of breath.
The rest of the tracks have a similar feel – driving and exciting – but relaxing at the same time. The vocals, by virtue of the catchy melodies and the lazy summer manner in which they’re delivered, anchor each song and prevent the album from careening off the rails. The Dodos also prevent their music from getting too muddy with the inclusion of noise tracks – the high pitched metal grind of “Darkness”, the synth whine on “Goodbyes and Endings” both cut through the murk and add a much needed clean, albeit dissonant, element to the tracks.
On “Bastard”, the only ‘slow’ song on the album, the pounding drums and unconventional rhythm guitars subside and make way for a vocal forward performance. Not content to just make a “nice” song; however, The Dodos distort the vocals – creating a lo-fi, garage rock aesthetic which elevates the song above conventionality.
Individ provides catchy melodies and guitar hooks without ever resorting to cliches. This record defies the kind of temporal classification (“summer album”, “night music”) that other albums lend themselves to because there is simply too much aural information being thrown at the listener. It overwhelms the ears, and it feels great.