Release Date: Mar 15, 2011
Record label: French Kiss
Genre(s): Folk, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Folk, Alternative Folk
Review Summary: unless you're counting the colors of the rainbow, of course.As far as titles go, No Color really sucks. Who wants to see the Dodos in black and white and grey? The Dodos are all about the beating of the drum and the slips and tangles they get us lost in, so to take away that vibrancy, that spring in their step, is to create something out of the space this duo occupy. Even if you locked these guys in a room and set them to task with a strict slow-jams policy, you’d get the hung-up, devastatingly sad sounds of the Dodos- a track as crushing as “Winter” is a product of its band, a product of Visiter, a track in which Kroeber thumps at his kit like he’s teasing his other half to put more into it.
The Dodos traded vibraphonist Keaton Snyder for Neko Case as their third member for No Color, but the biggest change isn’t any new direction but a return to the sound of their debut, helped by producer John Askew’s return. Case’s presence is seamless and unobtrusive, as is the addition of string arrangements; the album is still dominated by Meric Long’s insistent, emotional vocals and paced by Logan Kroeber’s restless energy on drums. Easily their best, most cohesive album yet, No Color shines brightly—continuing to push the band to new levels of musicianship and songwriting.
Listening to No Color, one thing can be ascertained for certain: The Dodos have a terrible sense of timing. Waiting until their fourth album to record their best, whose idea was that? Letting the hype subside and not abiding to the law of diminishing returns, good job all round guys. Maybe this is all part of some masterful middle-finger to the blogosphere demonstrating a band’s finest work won’t necessarily be contained within their first EP.
After breakthrough album Visiter, The Dodos’ third album Time To Die was widely regarded as something of a disappointment, although it feels slightly unfair to say so. That album was a genuine attempt at a new take on their sound - essentially a slowing-down and mellowing-out of their previously successful formula, but it was a move that took away some of the impact of what they were trying to do. Thankfully, No Color is a resounding return to form.
THE DODOS The Dodos play the Phoenix June 16 as part of NXNE. See listing. Rating: NNNN Anyone dissatisfied with the Dodos' last album, Time To Die, should like No Color. Stripping away the antiseptic production and muddied instrumentation (they've lost the vibraphones and are back to a duo), the San Franciscans return to what they do best: playing acoustic folk rock with the energy and urgency of a punk band.
The engine that fueled the Dodos’s Time to Die, and to a lesser extent ran Visiter, keeps chugging along on No Color, which opens with a bursting immediacy that barely flags over nine tracks and 40 minutes. While Time to Die worked as a sustained build-up from the ambling “Small Deaths” to the racing “Two Medicines,” this album seems to be all speed and energetic musicality. In one clear sign of the vivacity on display, drummer Logan Kroeber’s playing routinely spills over from the heads of his drums to their rims, incorporating a tinny, metallic element into the band’s songs.
In the shadow of Dodos' breakthrough LP Visiter, their 2009 follow-up Time to Die was considered a minor letdown; in a vacuum, it was actually more of a misstep. The addition of a third member had gummed up the works for original members Meric Long and Logan Kroeber went the party line. Instead, the record's achilles heel was the usually appropriate tidy economy of Phil Ek's production.
Being straightforward hasn’t exactly been Dodos‘ strong suit lately. Not only did the California duo claim their fourth effort was going to be “unlistenable”, reveal Neko Case was going to be on the record, and then release two tracks without her on them – but the name of the LP itself, No Color, demanded intrigue. After finally hearing the album, though, these inquiries were soundly resolved.
Everything you need to know about the new Dodos album can literally be heard in its first seven seconds: the drums are back, and they are very, very loud. While it would be easy to characterize No Color—the band’s fourth full-length—as a retreat back into the “indie-percussive-folk” sound that they made their name with on 2008’s Visiter (and only somewhat abandoned on the indifferently-received 2009 follow-up Time to Die), such a description would gloss over the fact that not only is the band trying to sound like their former selves, they’re actually writing songs like their former selves as well. It’s not that Time to Die was necessarily a bad album or an outright stylistic detour—the addition of keyboardist Keaton Snyder honestly didn’t add as many new textures as fans thought he would—it was just a very muted album.
Now shorn of vibraphonist Keaton Snyder, San Francisco’s [a]The Dodos[/a] remain a three-piece with the addition of alt.country chanteuse [a]Neko Case[/a]. The sometime [b]New Pornographer[/b] is a welcome recruit; it’s her vocal tone – warm, searching, a bit like a pixie gargling butter – that loosens the collar of the band’s sometimes metronomic acoustic rock.You see it on [b]‘Sleep’[/b], which is like a Howard Hawks western scoring [a]The Mountain Goats[/a], where previously it might have been the reverse. In truth, the best number, staccato stomper [b]‘Companions’[/b], would be a good song even without her.
The Dodos have found their Avatar. Visiter, their 2007 sophomore release, may have been their Titanic, putting them on the map. But two albums later, they are back with an opus that is so vividly three-dimensional, you don't need glasses (or headphones). The San Francisco duo's strength has always centered on a syncopated drumbeat that ropes its way into the body and around the heart.
Following the relatively sleepy Time to Die, Dodos snap back to action with No Color, a brisk and bustling set of songs that rivals Visiter when it comes to intricacy and immediacy. Compared to the joyous racket of guitars and drums here, Time to Die's atmospherics feel even more sedate, but any remaining cobwebs are cleaned out by “Black Night”'s guitar flurries, percussive tempests, and mix of melody and muscle, which provide irresistible momentum that carries through to the closing track, “Don’t Stop. ” Meric Long, Logan Kroeber, and Keaton Snyder are joined by Neko Case on over half of No Color; though her clarion vocals could easily overpower other collaborators, she provides a yin to their relentless yang, softening some of Dodos' edges without dulling their impact.
It’s probably not a good sign when a buzz band gives the first album following their breakthrough a name like Time To Die; there’s something nihilistic and defeating in the gesture, especially coming from an ecstatic folk band like The Dodos and not some goth-y synth-wave act. And Time To Die more than lived up to its title, capturing the sound of a band in the process of giving up. Disappointingly inert as it might have been, Time To Die helped lower expectations for whatever followed.
An album of two halves from the grunge-inspired and well-bearded duo. Iain Moffatt 2011 Now that The White Stripes have bid a fond adieu, there's a vacancy for the title of Most Ace Band That Sound Like There Are More Than Two Of Them. Could the Dodos be just the gentlemen for the job? Well, as any hipster'll tell you, these are salad days for those of a fuzzy-fizzoged persuasion, and, while Meric Long and Logan Kroeber might be sticking to their tidy 'staches, their penchant for fusing post-rock with tricksy bar-bandery has rendered them perhaps the beardiest of all bands.