Under Review: Dodos – No Color

The easiest way to regroup from a grand creative misstep is to set things back to the way they were just before the lapse. Think of it as using a system restore to revert the band to before it caught the virus that caused the gaffe. For the Dodos, the changes that made Time To Die such a dull release compared to Visiter (and even Beware Of The Maniacs) were easily identified. The addition of vibraphonist/percussionist Keaton Snyder, while an intriguingly unconventional move, took away from the physical dynamism between guitarist/singer Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber. To be fair, the three worked pretty well together, especially in a live setting where Snyder would come and go from song to song as needed. Snyder’s presence was, in the end, far less distracting than producer Phil Ek’s, who seemed bent on shoehorning the band into the Shins/Built To Spill/Fleet Foxes box that he’s so notable for establishing. It’s not that Ek is a bad producer (though his following work with the Shout Out Louds strongly supports that), but that he and the Dodos were not a good match. Back with Visiter producer John Askew, the Dodos’ new album, No Color, can be seen as the album that Time To Die should’ve been.

No Color is much shorter than Visiter, but it carries that album’s extended-song spirit. “Good” and “Going Under” make up most of the album’s first third, each boasting various movements within their running times. The brisk pacing is bolstered by the songs’ strong rhythmic textures; Long and Kroeber often bash away in a tight percussive lock. That’s all balanced with Long’s intricate picking style, which is given a spotlight toward the end of the album on “Companions.” While the return to the duo formation has served the Dodos very well, they still found room for an additional vocalist. The vocalist this time happens to be Neko Case, though she mostly stays towards the back of the mix. Neko does make a strong impression on “Don’t Try To Fight It” and the closer, “Don’t Stop,” but she’s definitely not on this album for star power. If there’s one area in which No Color is lacking, it’s memorable melodies. Each instrumental passage is breathtaking enough, but the songs themselves sound as though they were written around some already-finalized arrangement ideas. In no way does No Color trump Visiter in terms of becoming the Dodos’ defining work, but it does reassure that Long and Kroeber’s best days may indeed still be ahead of them.

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~ by E. on March 21, 2011.

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