The Dodos release ‘Individ’
John Darr | Wednesday, January 28, 2015
The Dodos’ arsenal is small, yet their ambition is huge. Adventurous songwriting and exquisite musicianship have kept them rolling for the past 10 years, stretching their lone guitar, drum set and pair of voices into a plethora of shapes and sizes. The decade has seen them ramble from acoustic sing-alongs (“Walking”) to massive anthems (“Black Night”) to noisey surf-tinged rockers (“Confidence”). A healthy dose of friendly melodies woven into the tricky rhythms and complex song structures has helped the Dodos receive a decent amount of blog love without losing their experimental edge.
Their new album “Individ” finds the Dodos sticking pretty closely to their previous strategies. Drums and guitars remain at the heart of each track as vocal melodies pop in and out of the mix. Each song is alternately flooded with noise and pared down to its most accessible ingredients, giving each song a propelling push-and-pull dynamic.
However, “Individ” seems to find the Dodos stretching their limits even more than usual. Shoegaze-esque guitar waves flow through the album, adding to the noisy side of the duo’s compositions. Such crushing guitar lines appear in different forms throughout the record, sometimes groove-dominating and relentless (“Precipitation”), while other times psychedelic and gentle (“Bubble”).
The backbone of the album is formed by a set of songs that seem to race themselves to the finish. “Individ” is performed with extreme precision, making its speed intriguing and accessible despite the record’s often distorted production. Lead single “Competition” showcases this with a profound ease. The track is pinned down by a guitar riff, beginning each measure in a jackhammer strum and ending by rapidly sliding into a higher chord which then leads to the next measure. Meanwhile, simple melodies complement the driving rhythms, allowing the band to make the most of a pair of ideas which many other groups would be unable to reconcile.
At the same time, many songs boast a stretch of relative quiet where the song’s melodies or lyrics are granted the space they truly deserve. “Darkness” assembles a crescendo from acoustic guitar arpeggios and beachy drum rhythms, eventually climaxing in a driving groove. However, the Dodos then brilliantly cut out to a beautiful harp-like, finger-picked, acoustic falling guitar riff, augmenting the sense of calm with soft overlaid choral harmonies. “Bastard,” the penultimate track, jettisons the band’s signature breakbeat tempos for a gospel-like stomp, pushing its unusual yet satisfying chord progression to the forefront.
“Individ” is in many ways nothing new for the Dodos. It is the product of a unique band that continues to improve slowly but surely, creating new works from old materials while never employing predictable songwriting tactics. In a world which places four out of four hip-hop beats on pedestals for their production values and often pushes experimental artists away from conventional instruments, the Dodos fill a much-needed role in the world of music. Their time-signatures are crazy; their production is unabashedly rough, yet they anchor their compositions with good old riffs and choruses that can still get stuck in your head. “Individ” finds the group very alive and well, playing to their strengths while simultaneously improving upon them.
Recommended Tracks: “Bubble,” “Competition,” “Darkness”
If you like: The Books, Tokyo Police Club