The Dodos have always been a band of the brain more than the heart, easier to admire than to love. They produce songs that are meticulously crafted with not a beat or a thought out of place. But there’s a subtle shift of direction on their latest album, Carrier, which is as exciting as it is heartbreaking.
Christopher Reimer, the duo’s touring guitarist, died last year, an event which clearly had a profound effect on Meric Long and Logan Kroeber. Long talks about Reimer as a big influence in the way he sees and plays the guitar – and that influence is sprinkled all over Carrier. The instrument is to the fore throughout, almost as a tribute to his friend, and there is a refreshingly straightforward approach that allows the pair’s powerful talents to shine.
It would be somewhere between trite and grotesque to suggest that the Dodos lost a friend and found their soul. But there is definitely something new here: a rawness, an emotional honesty with gives their music an immediacy it has sometimes lacked in the past. Nowhere is this more clear than on ‘Death’: “Death, what could be worse? If I had something to complain about…” Long sings, over the ghostly echo of a precisely-played guitar.
Lyrically, this is where the Dodos place themselves throughout Carrier: at once straightforward and elusive. Musically, some of the old tricks are there, like in opener ‘Transformer’ which nods at math rock. Single ‘Confidence’ meanwhile shows off the pair’s ear for a tune, while foregrounding their newfound reverence for straightforward musicality. There’s nothing showy here, no computer-led musical mutations. This is pure, powerful songwriting – clever songrwriting, yes, but songwriting all the same.
The Dodos have always been at their best when they let their instruments do the talking. On Carrier, they’re more eloquent than ever.