Tuesday, September 9, 2008

music recommendation: the dodos

kudos to my friend brian for pushing the dodos on me. i admit, i resisted this band of san franciscans at first, for no real good reason, but a few spins convinced me this is very much a worthwhile band.

the dodos' second album, visiter, has flashes of brilliance, mixed in with a few misses. their strength is their adventurous use of rhythm, melody, and texturing. their songs are pretty musically complex for an indie rock band, and might be challenging for some listeners, but they have a definite knack for mixing in clever, melodic hooks in a storm of changing key and time signatures. their songs blend furious percussion beats with overlapping layers of acoustic guitar, and psychedelic (read echo-y) vocals. although simplistic, i'd say they could be likened to animal collective, or better yet, described as "animal collective lite". fans of a.c. would probably like the dodos. they share similar psychedelic, experimental song structures, but are less cerebral and more accessible to an average listener. their primary tools to create this effect are tinny acoustic guitar riffs and some creative, almost tribal seeming percussion. they also layer in some fuzzy electric guitars, bells, banjo, horns, and keyboards to create a pleasantly trippy sound.

they do have one major flaw, though: they're not very good singers. bands have certainly recovered from such flaws. i've found that when charting the growth of a band over time, it's very often in the vocals that i notice the most improvement. but, then again, some people just don't have it. to steal a phrase from the randy jackson lexicon, "it was a little bit pitchy for me, dawg." it's difficult to tell if the moments where they are off-pitch in their singing are intentional or not, since their harmonies and dissonance throughout the album imply an understanding of pitch. it shouldn't be hard to tell if it's doing what it's supposed to.

the dissonance on the interlude track "it's that time again" is obviously intentional, and it has a pleasant effect. on tracks like "winter" and "park song", other interesting parts of the song distract (and make forgivable) the singers' shortcomings. but then there are tracks like "joe's waltz" and "undeclared" that don't have enough else interesting going on instrumentally to prevent the cringes, if you have an ear for that kind of thing anyway.

the hits on this album, however, are some pretty special pieces of work. "red and purple" starts off repeating the last guitar chord of the previous song before speeding up and welcoming a frantic drumbeat that continues through the otherwise mellow, catchy tune. the juxtaposition of the percussion and psychedelic, semi-poppy vocals makes a pretty rad sound. this layering is their strongest skill, and this track, along with "jodi", "the season", and "fools", exemplifies it best.

the dodos are a pretty interesting band, and a worthwhile listen for those of you with more adventurous music taste.

rating: 7/10 - pretty good. there's plenty to like about them, and good reason to expect better things from future albums.

fyi: they play at sonar (baltimore) on 9/28. i plan to go.

[note: i didn't give dr. dog's album a rating, and i feel strange changing it for some reason, so i'm gonna state here... dr. dog got 9/10]

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