The Dodos have found their Avatar. Visiter, their 2007 sophomore release, may have been their Titanic, putting them on the charts. But two albums later, they are back with an opus that is so vividly three-dimensional, you don’t need glasses (or headphones). The San Francisco duo’s strength has always centered on a syncopated drumbeat that ropes its way into the body and around the heart. It sneaks into hidden pockets of their songs, shocking layers of guitar to life. Whereas Visiter has a more hollow, bare-boned core, and their 2009 follow-up, Time to Die, seems calming in comparison, No Color fleshes out the feral, tribal percussion with layers of guitar. The gaps and holes in the songs are gone, yet the ear can still catch every nuance without feeling extra clutter.
More than ever, the tone of the new record is menacing. Meric Long’s acoustic finger picking is coated with jarring bursts of electric fuzz. Simple vocal melodies are at the core of the best songs on No Color. “When Will You Go” is striking in its melancholy beauty. Logan Kroeber weaves a thumping backdrop to the verses, allowing them room to breathe, and aggressively thrashes forward between them. Long imitates Rodrigo y Gabriela’s dexterous guitar playing on “Don’t Stop” and “Companions,” fingers flying across the strings like a flickering fire.
With every measure, The Dodos contradict the album’s title. No Color has a bright vibrancy, a sense of movement rare in non-dance music. “Sleep” is the ultimate anthem for insomniacs, seemingly conveying the simultaneous frustrations and excitement of being awake long after everyone else. You get the idea these guys thrive on late-night ideas, channeling creative forces at odd hours. Rather than envisioning blue aliens, though, Long and Kroeber have found living, breathing incarnations of their musical compositions. And it’s an otherworldly pleasure.