Lots of late-2000s indie bands boast archaic and/or exotic influences, but few use them with the energy and creativity that the Dodos do on Visiter, their first officially released album. Country-blues fingerpicking meets West African Ewe drumming meets metal meets indie pop sounds like an all-too-wacky description on a band’s MySpace page, but the Dodos turn these far-flung elements into delightfully natural-sounding music. What holds it all together is Meric Long and Logan Kroeber’s strong pop sensibilities — that’s “pop” in the sense of memorable melodies and ear-catching hooks, because the Dodos’ songs are too full of ideas to stick to a verse-chorus-verse format for very long. Visiter gets off to a simple, almost shy start with “Walking,” which shows off Long’s boyish voice (it sits somewhere between Ben Gibbard and Paul McCartney). Then the album really takes off with “Red and Purple,” which crashes in on toy pianos and Kroeber’s extravagantly syncopated drumming, creating a massive backdrop for the song’s limpid melody and vocal harmonies. Visiter rarely lets up from there, coming in such a rush of vibrant words, melodies, and rhythms that it often feels like one ever-changing song. That makes highlights difficult to pick — although the gleeful “Fools” and “Jodi,” which sounds like a timeless folk song revved up to modern-day speeds, are among them. Though the Dodos play mostly acoustic instruments, they generate a lot more energy than many plugged-in bands, and with their rapid dynamic shifts, at times they even rock harder, too (that’s where the metal influence comes in). It’s a good thing the band only has two core members, since Long and Kroeber have so much going on already that there isn’t much room for many other sounds or players. They push and pull against each other, adding the same creative spark and tension to snippets like “Eyelids” that they do to the aptly majestic final track “God?.” Long’s guitars are especially inspired on “Paint the Rust,” where his swift picking and snarling slide work sounds a bit like John Fahey or Jim O’Rourke after several pots of coffee, and on “Winter”‘s delicate, descending guitar riff, which swirls and falls lightly like a flurry. Kroeber’s drumming is often elaborate, but never too showy, especially on “Park Song,” where he gives Long’s rambling internal monologue a playful sense of purpose. That purposefulness never flags, even when the Dodos slow it down on wistful but not too-precious ballads like “Ashley,” or take one turn too many on the seven-minute patchwork “Joe’s Waltz.” Visiter’s experimental pop is so joyous and liberated-sounding that it’s difficult not to get swept along in its wake. – Heather Pharesmore »
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