Release Date: Jan 27, 2015
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Head here to submit your own review of this album. How, as an artist, do you follow the act that rescued you from the jaws of extinction? After the success of 2011's No Colour, Merc Long and Logan Kroeber were convinced that Dodos had made their last album. Long had lost touch of what he had left to say with the group, and whether it was worth saying.
The Dodos' sixth album and follow-up to 2013’s Carrier was recorded in their base of San Francisco at Tiny Telephone on the heels of the Carrier sessions. Individ, however, is neither more of the same from its predecessor nor a break from the past. With grooving, more assertive vibes than Carrier, it has a Visiter-esque exuberance but retains the reflective quality of Carrier.
There’s an audacity to resilience that is rarely talked about, but is integral to the struggle of moving forward in spite of heavy odds. It is at the heart of the myth of Sisyphus, who Camus argued must find happiness in his eternally fruitless task to retain his personhood and sanity. By imbuing his punishment with joy and purpose (Camus likened rolling the boulder to the overall absurdity and pure meaninglessness of human existence), Sisyphus could overcome the unfair will of the gods, even in damnation.
The Dodos closed out their last album, 2013’s Carrier, with a chorus of high tensions and heavy-hearted repetition — “Why won’t you be where I want you to be?” The resolution-less query was pointed at Carrier‘s central motivator: the death of guitarist Chris Reimer, who passed in his sleep in 2012. Their sixth album, Individ, was written in the immediate wake of the Carrier recording sessions but appears to have shed the sullen despair for a coat of wistful ambiguity. Individ sees the duo blending their modern sound with their more raucous beginnings, melding the clean-cut production of more recent works with the strong-armed vitality of their groundbreaking 2008 album Visiter.
Progress can be a hard thing to quantify. For bands, it’s often either measured by record sales, critical acclaim, or—as is the case with San Francisco band the Dodos—simple endurance. The twosome of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber have been making music together for the better part of a decade and by now they have honed their own distinct language.
A simple trip to an online dictionary reveals a Latin etymological history behind the word Individ, a disarming abbreviation that evolved from individuum — “an indivisible thing. ” The conspicuous title of The Dodos’ new full-length aptly suggests two factors at work this time around; that the veteran duo plans on soldiering their music forth in a statement of rampant identity and individualism, and that each track should not be considered without close attention to the entirety of the record. That self-affirming spirit is woven into the pair’s sonic tapestry with rough-and tumble snare hits and the jagged crunch of a Fender Jazzmaster to dizzying, sometimes overwhelming effect.
Across one decade and five LPs, The Dodos have turned minimalistic math-rock yearning into a science: Whether he’s fingerpicking intricate arpeggios or bashing inverted chords into oblivion, Meric Long plays his acoustic guitar with a ferocity few metal players can muster; favoring rim clicks and low-tuned toms, percussionist Logan Kroeber anchors the bluster with his jittery attack. It seems impossible, especially within today’s crowded and derivative indie-rock, to spark such a distinctive vibe. For The Dodos, the only concern has been fanning their flame.
After the 2012 death of their live guitarist, Christopher Reimer (also of Women), the Dodos went in to the studio to recorded Carrier, an album that presented itself as, understandably, the band's most complex and sobering work. Directly after that recording, the core duo of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber returned to lay down the tracks that would eventually become Individ. This may explain why their sixth LP comes off so much more blithe and simple, as these nine songs come off as a release to this dark period.
Review Summary: Reignite the light.The cover of the Dodos’ sixth record says it all: a figure almost Greek-like in stark relief, outlined by a whirlpool of colors coalescing into a brilliant spot of light at the center. In the foreground is a demon figure, watching the hero struggle forward into something brighter, something hopefully greater – more importantly, away. While the artistic direction may be a bit on the nose, Individ is a more subtly affecting trip that repurposes past tropes; here, the reckless adventuring of 2008’s Visiter and the electric, more contemplative shadings of 2013’s Carrier.
The Dodos turn 10 this year. The San Francisco indie rock duo met through mutual friends in San Francisco’s constant but widening music scene back in 2005. Meric Long was busy drafting lyric sheets and complex guitar parts, while Logan Kroeber was learning how to bring West African Ewe drumming into his rhythms. After a couple of stand-in shows and several jam sessions, the two realized they were more than just compatible — they challenged one another.
The Dodos have always been a pleasantly disarming mix of salty and sweet. Complex rhythmic ideas round out simple but creative melodic lines, which are in turn occasionally rounded out by an unexpected dissonance. Basic instrumentation expands to fill up vast amounts of space, both on the recordings and during their hypnotic live shows. Meric Long's vocals possess a calm, almost lazy, charm while Logan Kroeber's drumming declares itself with pointed accuracy.
Extinction is not something likely to happen to The Dodos in the near future. It’s been 10 years since the duo of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber first teamed up in San Francisco and Individ – a word, according to the band, that they made up to mean “perseverance, understated revenge and resilience” – is their sixth long player, continuing their remarkable prolificacy. The limitations of having just two permanent members means that in a live setting other troops are mobilised to flesh out the performance; a key member of the touring version of the band was ex-Women guitarist Christopher Reimer, but he sadly died, aged just 26, in 2012.
Even for a band built on the force, persistence, and interplay of its rhythmic elements, The Dodos’ latest album is a kinetic marvel. The sixth album from the duo of Meric Long (vocals and guitar) and Logan Kroeber (drums and percussion) pushes the band’s restless energy higher than ever, while also adding a welcome sense of without-a-net adventurousness. Recorded on the heels of 2013’s Carrier, in the same studio (San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone) and with the same engineers (Jay and Ian Pellicci), Individ is the sound of a band confident and engaged, striking while the amps and mics are hot.
The Dodos Individ (Polyvinyl) Within seconds of winding, melodic interplay between Meric Long's guitar and Logan Kroeber's anthem-ready drumming, there's zero doubt you're back in the sphere of San Francisco duo the Dodos. Sixth album in a decade, Individ proves that a winning formula rarely faulters. "Competition" reverts to the primitivism of 2008's Visiter, stripped of Long's waxing licks and letting Kroeber's intricate patterns shine.
After the Dodos wrapped up their fifth album in 2013 (which was inspired by the death of former bandmate Calgary guitarist Chris Reimer of Women), the San Francisco duo stayed holed up in the studio and immediately began writing a follow-up. The songs came quickly and steadily, and the resulting Individ is the best the band has sounded in years. Guitarist/vocalist Meric Long continues to move away from acoustic guitar, breaking it out only when it's shunted between layers of amped-up strumming.
What’s in a name? In the case of the Dodos, it can be misleading. In fact, there’s nothing the least bit goofy about the sound they’ve sired, one that demands attention to the intricate set-ups that have clearly become a hallmark of their approach. Indeed, Individ reveals a progressive band in the making, a group that’s clearly not beholding to the need for accessible offerings or any semblance of an instant embrace.