The Dodos, ‘Carrier’ – Album Review
With their big Miller Chill deal long behind them, the Dodos carry on in a workmanlike fashion — a reflection, perhaps, of their survival needs as professional musicians.
Surely, the San Francisco duo would like to take a few years to mull over an album, but their success level simply requires them to keep working, and that’s resulted in five albums over the last seven years.
But while their music is always good and sometimes even great, the best thing about their constant working isn’t the wealth of material, but rather the picture their output paints as a whole. The restlessness between albums is apparent. Musicians other than the core duo of Meric Long and Logan Kroeber come and go, and as a songwriter, Long hunts meticulously for the greatness he sees within reach and sometimes grasps but never holds onto.
To say ‘Carrier’ is their best album would imply that he finally gets there, but that isn’t true. ‘Carrier’ is the first album the Dodos have made where none of that matters anymore. “Success is failure, failure’s assured,” Long repeats a few times on ‘Family,’ and it as if the album was made knowing Ian Cohen is always going to review their albums for Pitchfork, and that until they make ‘Visitor 2,’ the sequel to their second album, the 8’s are simply out of the question.
The death of their 2011 touring guitarist Christopher Reimer haunts and inspires this collection, as Long finally embraces the electric guitar he started playing sparingly during the recording of their last album, ‘No Color.’ Long uses the instrument in tribute to the former bandmate, tapping into the spirit he picked up in their short time together. The Dodos even go as far as to record with Chad Van Gaalen, who produced for Reimer’s previous band Women.
‘Carrier’ is not an easy or inviting album, and it probably won’t get a fair shake because of that, but Long puts his money where his mouth is and tries a new approach to songwriting. The Dodos don’t challenge any preconceived notions of what they should sound like, and as a result, they come across like a band not trying too hard or over-thinking things, and they sound more like themselves.’Transformer’ opens the collection with Long contemplating what a song is, and after a minute, a song forms around his quizzical nature. The album comes off like this, like it happened to the band and not the other way around.
Three powerful cuts lead off ‘Carrier,” but its the gentler, reflective ‘Death’ that solidifies the importance and beauty of the record. ‘Carrier’ ultimately won’t bring back their friend, but it assures his legacy lives on, and it gives the world a final offering to remember him by. And Long, forever intent on making a difference as a songwriter, can find temporary solace.