the Dodos performing at the Cafe du Nord March 29, 2007
It’s been a hair over a year since I first heard the Dodos (myspace). That show was what first inspired me to create the Local and I’m Listening series and their sound left me obsessed for months. (I may have caught on early but I was certainly not the first.) I liked them enough to bring a bunch of people to see the Dodos, again as an opening act five days later. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an opening band cold and wanted to see them again five days later, but I did. I’ve since been song obsessed, hosted them at KZSU and seen them yet again. This was all before Visiter came out and they got all that attention.
What I’ve set myself up for here is the perfect indie snob I-knew-them-way-back-when-but-now-they’re-crap moment. As much as I hate that sort of stuff, there’s a little part of me that’s yearning to take advantage of it. But here’s the thing: there’s no need. They’re still great. I’ve been listening to it a ton and I’ve been song obsessed again. There’s no need for any sort backlash here; the Dodos still have it.
One of the reasons I love their first album, Beware of the Maniacs, is because it has topnotch songwriting across the board. I can put that album on shuffle and basically always hit a song I love. I love their live show a ton because of all the energy, but Visiter (and Beware) doesn’t quite capture that. Where the live show succeeds on account of its energy, Visiter succeeds on subtly great melodies, meticulous production and layering and its willingness to put on some of the experimentation they do live.
The beginning of the album is impressive: the first four songs make a great introduction to the album and, for new listeners, a great introduction to the Dodos. “Walking” is a pretty atypical Dodos song. It’s got banjo and female vocals and Meric’s singing in a sweeter tone that usual. It’s a nice melody and the banjo works really well.
“Red and Purple” picks up the pace and introduces an intense world-referencing beat (reminding me of “The Obvious Child”‘s beat). The chorus has one of those subtle melodies that I was talking about and the toy piano just adds an extra little hook for part of the song.
the Dodos – Walking (mp3)
the Dodos – Red and Purple (mp3)
If you’ve heard of the Dodos, you’ve probably heard or seen the video for the single “Fools.” It’s still a great song–I’m not glossing over that at all–but you probably know it already. Follow “Fools”, “Winter” is another solid song with particularly interesting production (mandolin, reverbed clapping, brass).
“Paint the Rust” comes close to capturing the intensity of their live performances. The song builds to a point with frantic finger-picking and spastic drums. But here’s where the Dodos do what may become a signature element for them, a thing other bands don’t do: instead of building to a frantic climax and stopping, they breakdown the song and slow it down until it effectively segues into “Park Song.” That song and the song after it, the second single “Jody”, feature more of those subtle and beautiful melodies, sneaked into the choruses and surrounded by more agitated and experimental parts. “Jody” is a great song all around. It has intensity, great guitar parts and nice melodies.
In the last bit of the album you’ll find “Ashley” and “Undeclared”. These two songs took a little bit to sink but sank in nicely. The album ends with the almost seven minute long “God?”, which is a great way to end the album: interesting percussion and production, both softer and intense parts, and even a little of their experimental sides.
So, to recap: Visiter is great. The Dodos are great. There’s a lot of press about them and it’s warranted.
You can buy Visiter at insound or at Amoeba or Aquarius (last I checked they both had it in stock).
A still better idea is to check them out live and buy it at the show. They’ve got three dates coming up in SF, all either with great bands or free. Can’t lose, can you?
4/27 Les Savy Fav, the Dodos @ Great American
5/14 the Dodos @ Amoeba, FREE
7/19 the Dodos, The Oh Sees, Dreamdate @ the Independent
Other local and I’m listening posts (newest-to-oldest):
 That ¡albondigas! post is what convinced me to get to the Adem show early enough to see the Dodos. Thanks, Nick!