In the wake of their groundbreaking 2009 debut album Visiter, the Dodos’ sophomore effort Time To Die seemed like a significant letdown by comparison. With Visiter, they accomplished something truly amazing. They managed to find a sort of perfect space among the rumbling tribal hymns of the nu-primitive genre pioneered by Animal Collective and Yeasayer.
The Dodos were able to carve out a tight little niche in this burgeoning scene by diving even deeper into the primitive past with their unique and dynamic duo – Meric Long strumming like a mad genius on acoustic guitar and Logan Kroeber furiously pounding away like a some hell-bent demon on the drums.
What really made them stand out from most of their contemporaries was the relationship the duo shared. It always seemed like they were battling to be heard. There was such an immense raw power that the emanated from just a guitar and drum-set. It was sort of a relentless assault on our collective eardrums. Pounding and pounding away until you’re dripping with sweat and dry heaving like a dog chasing cars.
When their second album dropped, I was hyped beyond belief. Once I got a good listen to it, it was clear that the band was taking its music in a different direction. The songs were more subdued and lacked the raw power that Visiter contained. They were polished and clean, which in itself is a good thing, but lacked that emotion and vigor that we had grown to adore.
I personally loved the album because I love everything, but a clear and defined presence was lacking in the recordings. I was left desiring much, much more. Most critics will agree that “Troll Nacht” was their most beautiful composition to date. The subdued nature of Meric Long’s vocals was perfect for settling into the cozy atmosphere of the orange and red hues of a chilly autumn afternoon.
If Time to Die had been released before Visiter, things would have been different. To me, it would seem like a gradual building up of energy that would eventually explode on their newest album, No Color.
No Color is a truly masterful slice of what Long and Kroeber see through their kaleidoscopic looking glass, envisioning and embodying what music means to them. Opening with the track “Black Night,” we are immediately greeted by Kroeber’s driving and forceful drumming as it opens up to Long’s simultaneous finger-picking and mad-man strumming and his clear and present, yet guttural, singing style.
It’s very clear that the Dodos have returned to their roots. Stripping down the excessive production from Time To Die to the bare bones that defined their vision, they took what they had from Visiter and built it up in a totally different way. On “Sleep,” we’re treated to a magnificent slow burn of a track that flips their songwriting talents on its head and ends with a beautiful harmonic choral vocal section.
Present especially on the middle track “Don’t Try and Hide It,” the band enlisted the help of folk heroine Neko Case to provide backup vocals. What’s really great about her presence on the album is that it’s subdued.
Unlike most bands that would forego their traditional musical tendencies to cater to the guest artist, Case blends in perfectly with Long’s harmonies and acts as a real backup singer. Her vocals add just that extra bit of oomph to push the band past the familiar trappings of staying the same.
Another thing to add is that the song’s use in a commercial for a watered-down, shit-tasting beer hasn’t hurt them in the very least, unlike the backlash that followed when Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks” was featured in a Volkswagen commercial. So I guess that says something about the integrity of the band, or however you want to interpret that.
So if you fell in love with the pounding melodies of Visiter, go out and buy this album. It’s really, really beautiful and will put you in that perfect state of mind. You’ll thank me later.