Release Date: Sep 15, 2009
Record label: Frenchkiss
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Listen to The Dodos on imeem. Third member’s a charm Several bands this decade have made a duo sound like more than a duo. Most recently, The Dodos made an impressive attempt on their second album, Visiterproducer Phil Ek (The Shins, Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses). On opening track “Small Deaths,” Snyder follows Long’s distorted guitar lines, allowing Long to rock out without muddying his lovely melodies.
You could argue the wisdom of using something called "Fools" to sell a watery macrobrew, but when the Dodos' breakthrough song was used in a Miller Chill commercial, it went a long way towards illustrating what made its parent album Visiter such a treat-- Meric Long and Logan Kroeber kept a foot in the avant-garde with their astounding technical chops and an unvarnished recording of string buzz, drum rattle, and missed cues, all while keeping things grounded in a user-friendly acoustic pop format. At times, I wondered if I overrated it, but these days, I think it might be underrated-- if I told you Animal Collective-inspired music could be used to sell beer, what chance would you give it to turn out as good as the charmingly undecided Visiter? Changes are afoot for this prototypical duo: Yet electric vibraphonist/percussionist Keaton Snyder isn't even the most noticeable addition to the fold on Time to Die-- producer Phil Ek is. and if you're thinking that Time to Die has a suspiciously similar sound to the Shins' Chutes Too Narrow or Fleet Foxes, now you know why.
Even if you didn't know that Phil Ek produced Dodos' third LP, Time to Die, you'd be able to detect about it something distinctly Shins-ian, Fleet Foxes-ian and Band of Horses-ian (all bands for which Ek produced albums). Meric Long’s voice has natural reverb, and his guitar lines sound like bells. Logan Kroeber’s drumming isn’t in the front of the mix like it was on 2008’s Visiter.
In the two years since the Dodos caught their big break, opening for Les Savy Fav and later Akron/Family, they have signed to Wichita, released a critically acclaimed second album, toured relentlessly on both sides of the Atlantic, and recently added vibraphone player Keaton Snyder to the lineup (not to be confused with Joe Haener, who sits in on xylophone and toy piano for live performances). There is a Miller Chill television commercial featuring ‘Fools’ (from 2008’s Visiter), a song so infectious it’s easy to overlook the fact that the beer tastes like rat piss. It must seem like a whirlwind ride for singer/guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber, a long way from selling homemade t-shirts and CDs in the dingy dive bars they used to play.
You would have to be a guitarist or drummer of considerable prowess to listen to the Dodos' third album and not feel your jaw repeatedly drop. So complex are Meric Long's rippling melodies and Logan Kroeber's rhythms, individually and in syncopated relation to each other, that every song envelops you like a violent snowstorm. At a slight remove, the music's precise, geometric patterns become clearer: the kaleidoscope whorls of opening track Small Deaths, the jagged lines of This Is a Business, hurtling forward then pausing for breath.
For Time to Die, the Dodos added a new member, electric vibraphonist Keaton Snyder, and worked with a new producer, Phil Ek. Despite these changes, the band's third album is surprisingly predictable, replacing the free-wheeling approach of Beware of the Maniacs and their breakthrough album, Visiter, with a slower, more polished approach that focuses on their melodies. "Troll Nacht" and "Acorn Factory" are so undeniably pretty they're impossible to dislike, but they don't necessarily connect the way the Dodos' earlier work did.
If the internet as we know it, imploded tomorrow, what’s the worst that could happen? OK, industry and commerce would grind to a halt, banking systems would collapse, governments would certainly crumble, there’d be widespread looting and rioting in the streets, hospitals would overflow, martial law would have to be imposed and you’d miss out on [a]Lily Allen[/a] tweeting about the cricket. But hey, on the upside, you’d be blissfully unaware of [a]The Dodos[/a], a band who would clearly struggle to survive if removed from their natural habitat: nestled next to pretentious digital camera snaps of abandoned gas stations at sunset on the MP3 blogs of earnest American college students. With their carbon-neutral acoustic instruments, rootsy fingerpicking techniques and yearning vocals, The Dodos might fool you into thinking they’re a real band.
This time last year, The Dodos were a band to watch. Creating pop songs shrouded in complex fretwork and primal drumming, they made acoustic guitars rock. Surrendering the urgency and hominess of last year’s Visiter, Phil Ek is brought in to produce and fill in the lo-fi spaces with some sheen. Like a waiter bringing you a fresh soda before your first is even half empty and then giving you some artificial sweetener on the side, none of it’s really necessary for this band.
Being a music lover these days is an exhausting passion. There was a time when you could stay abreast just by reading a couple of periodicals; younger still, you might have just raided your older brother’s record collection. But now the whole world has gone pop culture crazy; every newspaper and broadsheet in the Western world carries entertainment sections, raving about the latest release by the Rapture or the Gossip or the new flavour of the month.
For bands that can be primarily described as acoustic acts, the window for success is scarcely slim—and it’s only getting narrower. After a few albums, the novelty that at first seemed refreshing and different can grow old. And it only takes a few similar bands to put out greater albums before you’re stuck in the backseat, alone. Following the breakthrough success of The Dodos’ second album, Visiter, the group opted to endlessly tour and quickly put together a follow up.
Built to Spill Doug Martsch, Built to Spill’s songwriter, guitarist and singer, turned 40 this year, and his band’s seventh studio album, “There Is No Enemy” (Warner Brothers), hunkers down as he ponders surviving over the long haul. Most of the songs trudge along, methodical and steadfast ….