The Dodos have been doing their thing now for a few years. It seems like we’ve gone from their 2008 album Visiter to their new album Individ in the blink of an eye. I know that’s not the case, as Meric Long and Logan Kroeber have put out some truly great music in the years that followed that defining 2008 release. Time To Die, No Color, and their last record Carrier all seemed to add, expand, and build upon the formula they’d patented and created with on Visiter. What was that formula? Frantic, hyper beats mixed with acoustic strums and rhythms equally frantic in jangly desperation, all topped with Long’s playful and youthful vocal delivery. Yelps and barks peppered the tracks as if coming from the bottom of an endless well. All of this came together to create the folk equivalent of a punk and youth-fed emotional exorcism. You got the feeling that Long and Kroeber were just as earnest and heartfelt as they were jaded and pissed off. That combination made listening to the Dodos all the more fun and palpable.
Over the years, with every new record the Dodos sounded a little more mature and earthbound. A little more weighted down by the everyday slag. That feeling came to a head with 2013s Carrier. It was a record steeped in laments on life, death, and the overwhelming “why?” It was never maudlin, and it still retained some of that youthful and swift movement in the rhythm department; it was, however, weighted in emotional intricacies not fully explored until that point. Only a year and a half later we have the excellent Individ. Recorded at the same time as Carrier, you get the feeling they are two bookends to one explosive writing session. You also get the feeling that Individ is more of “the light at the end of the tunnel” part of that writing session. It also feels like a full circle kind of album. They’ve taken everything they’ve learned since 2008 and that knowledge culminates on this album. If this were to be the final Dodos record, we could be happy and content knowing that they gave us the best they had to offer.
But let’s hope that’s not the case.
The songs on Individ retain much of the clear-eyed honesty that filled Carrier, yet you get the feeling the songs on this new album are of the “next morning” variety. “Precipitation” has distant guitar swells, Kroeber’s amazing tom work, and that guitar jangle Long has made his bread and butter. The clouds have cleared in this song, and while there may be more storms to deal with things seem better. “The Tide” harkens back to Visiter and that album’s excellent “Red and Purple”. All manic energy kept in control with Long’s calm vocal delivery. “Bubble” sounds a bit reminiscent of Time To Die’s more contemplative moments, albeit with the weight of a few years of living under their belts. Meric Long has learned how to use electric guitar very well since the early days. He creates heaviness in mood, not volume so much. There’s a real existential weightiness to the songs thanks to Long’s guitar technique. “Competition” is the lead single and it’s a great way to introduce Individ to folks. It’s a nice culmination of what you have to look forward to on this album.
The Dodos have made an album that shows the years they’ve lived, the friends they’ve gained and lost, and hopefully what’s in store for the future of the band. From “Darkness” and it’s gentle swells and lilting vocals, to “Retriever” and it’s fuzzed-out manic persistence, to the epic closer “Pattern/Shadow”, Meric Long and Logan Kroeber have made an album filled with light and life.