Chris Reimer had only been a part of The Dodos for a short while before his sudden death from a heart condition at age 26 last year, but his noise-rock flair clearly had an immediate and lasting impact on the duo of frontman Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber. Generous portions of vibrant, distortion-heavy guitar are poured in thick throughout Carrier, creating a newfound balance between acoustic and electric elements. Increasing that dynamic interplay is a good game plan for the album, but Long struggles with cohesively infusing his patient, subdued songwriting with these raw stretches of plugged-in clamor.
Instead, the two sides of the record sit uneasily beside each other, individually well executed but not quite congealing into the coherent sound the band is aiming for. This disjointed hybrid is perhaps best exemplified in Carrier’s third track, “Confidence,” which begins with a compellingly simple guitar riff and gently sparse harmony that, as the pound of Kroeber’s measured percussion urges the verse along, builds into an emerging tension. Before this motif can play out, however, an abrupt switch occurs, and the song becomes a surging, double-time alt-rock jam breakdown. Both sections are powerful and effective in their own space, and leave no doubt that the pair has impressively mastered each approach—just not simultaneously.
They often get awfully close, however, on tracks such as “Relief,” a quietly sunny ballad of soft, fluttered fingerpicking that quickly blossoms into a dramatic climax of chants, swelling horns, shimmering guitar runs, and emphatic drums. These affecting, engaging moments pop up regularly throughout Carrier, helping retain the quirky, enigmatic charm that’s radiated across the duo’s previous four records. Ultimately, though, the album’s shifts in tone are so conspicuously detached so as to be a distraction. The Dodos have more than capably captured Reimer’s amped-up methods; they just haven’t quite brought them into the fold.