The Dodos know something about push and pull. They come at you viciously, screaming guitars and rushed pacing, tying your heart in knots. Then they withdraw, gently floating into acoustic wonderment, a fragile and vulnerable state. It’s tension, it’s unease, it’s bliss, it’s joy.
Carrier is a transitional album for the band, who lost guitarist Chris Reimer last year when he unexpectedly passed away from a heart condition. The two remaining members, Meric Long (vocals, guitar) and Logan Kroeber (percussion), carry on his legacy by making a bold album that takes you places.
The best songs are slightly off. “The Carrier” begins with two guitar parts playing in unison, slightly discordant. But then, in comes the percussion and a third guitar part, and this imperfect collision of sounds is just right. The result is menacing, intense, and the kind of rare piece of music that is still mysterious after several listens.
The Majik Majik Orchestra, who you may have heard on past John Vanderslice recordings, contributes to several songs on Carrier, further fleshing out the band’s sound. A horn section rounds out the climax of “Substance,” making it something truly grand. Lucky for us, the Dodos then let the song wander off into a hazy acoustic retreat for one final minute of guitar picking so sweet it rivals German chocolate cake.
“Death,” perhaps a tribute to Reimer, is a gorgeous ballad, among the most tender of the Dodos’ songs. It’s followed by the album’s grand finale, “The Ocean,” which picks up in the middle with tribal percussion and a background of string instruments. It’s yet another example of how strong the band can be when they build their songs like small universes, starting slow and racing upward until they’re high above the clouds. It ends on the refrain, “Why won’t you be where I want you to be?” A common question, a familiar feeling, but wrangled by tension and conflict, the end of this album stops just short of relieving the unease. Better, it leaves you wanting more.