Even for a band built on the force, persistence, and interplay of its rhythmic elements, The Dodos’ latest album is a kinetic marvel.
The sixth album from the duo of Meric Long (vocals and guitar) and Logan Kroeber (drums and percussion) pushes the band’s restless energy higher than ever, while also adding a welcome sense of without-a-net adventurousness. Recorded on the heels of 2013’s Carrier, in the same studio (San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone) and with the same engineers (Jay and Ian Pellicci), Individ is the sound of a band confident and engaged, striking while the amps and mics are hot.
After Carrier saw The Dodos turning to music in the face of tumult and upheaval after the death of guitarist Christopher Reimer—a third band member for about a year, whose influence shows in Long’s expanded guitar style—this record finds the band simply excited to play. Long and Kroeber created the songs in studio as they explored, pushing for a bigger sound while they zeroed in on The Dodos’ essence, the musical dialogue between drums and guitar.
At the top of the record is the six-minute “Precipitation,” which uses the metaphor of a storm to emphasize resilience, persistence, second chances, and moving on. The song could reference the band itself, or a different challenge all together, but Long’s voice on the repeated outro chorus of “Let go of it / Get out of here / Let’s get out of here / For good” reverberates with determination and conviction. “Competition,” Individ’s first single, stacks a fuzz-laden electric lead guitar on top of a relentlessly percussive acoustic guitar and drum attack, a combination of The Dodos’ old signature strengths and a newer indulgence. “Darkness” brings in the fingerpicking that Long has employed so effectively before, particularly on quieter songs like Carrier’s “Relief,” but here it’s one aspect of multi-layered guitar sounds. “Goodbyes And Endings,” the album’s strongest song, sits right in the middle, featuring multiple time signatures, all stitched together seamlessly so that one of The Dodos’ most complex songs is also one of the band’s catchiest. Individ finishes with a strong and varied trio—a heavily distorted riff guiding “Retriever,” then the polyrhythms receding for the enticingly straightforward and sharp “Bastard,” and finally the epic “Pattern/Shadow,” which shifts from a skittering guitar and militarily precise drumbeat to a soaring ballad to a freaky jam-out over the course of its seven minutes.
The album’s cover—an explosion of color and light, rendered by forceful lines—stands in contrast to the stark, silhouetted figure and distant tornado on Carrier (not to mention the bleak imagery on the band’s previous effort, No Color). That’s no surprise, given the burst of new vitality The Dodos display on Individ.