88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 3/30
The San Francisco indie-rock band The Dodos released its fourth album, No Color, March 15. The duo Meric Long and Logan Kroeber teamed up with ex-member Keaton Snyder and tour mate Neko Case to create what is arguably the best album released this year.
Fast-paced minimalist percussion and rhythmic vocals drive the nine-song album. Neko Case of The New Pornographers contributes backing vocals for five songs. Despite being the vocal powerhouse she is, Case adds just the right addition of harmonies as to not overpower The Dodos, but simply make a great supplement to the album.
The album’s opener, “Black Night,” begins with attention-grabbing drums and melodic guitar. A distinctive trait of The Dodos is its lack of bass drum. Instead, Kroeber swapped it out for a tambourine. This is an unconventional route to take, but it generates a unique formation of songs.
Songs like “Going Under” and “Good,” which both feature Case, are very catchy. Influences of The New Pornographers are evident, but not subduing The Dodo’s style. The drums pound in an exciting cadence, balanced by the guitar work of Long.
Four songs in, “Sleep” continues the up-beat folk-rock, utilizing repetition and harmonies. Case echoes in the background, adding depth to the song.
“Don’t Try and Hide It” is a little different, starting out with acoustic guitar and vocals only. The drums sneak up after the first minute. The rise and fall of the vocals works well in this song, especially with the notes Case can hit. She harmonizes with Long, singing “You are nowhere/you are nothing vacant.”
“When Will You Go” offers a mix of fast and slow beats, along with sections of both jam sessions and single-instrument solos.
“Hunting Season” is similar to The Dodos’ earlier work, like their big hit “Fools,” off of Visiter. The Dodos found something that worked and stuck with it in this song. The lyrics are a little wittier, such as “this is what I’ve been waiting for, and the red light/you go be a girl I’ll be leaving tonight.”
“Companion” begins by dancing around classical guitar-picking and ethereal vocals. The album’s closer, “Don’t Stop,” reverts back to the quick and choppy drum beats and steady vocals. The song finishes with a concluding crack of the drums, leaving the listener with a racing heartbeat and wanting more.
The raw and rackety drumming is the pulse of this album. The simple strumming and fastidious finger picking add spirit and bring the album to life. The chemistry between Long and Kroeber emulates that between members of a jazz band, in which each person plays off what the other is doing.
The Dodos are not afraid of experimentation, which is easy to see as the music floats between pure indie rock and folk rock with elements of psychedelic.
This album is a good follow-up to their 2009 release, Time to Die. The Dodos were on point, setting the bar high for the many new releases to come this year.
88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday in the print edition of Technician, as well as online at technicianonline.com and wknc.org.