There was a time, just a couple of months ago, when you couldn’t have seen me at a house party without being subjected to Competition by The Dodos – now one of my all-time favourite indie rock tracks. So, when Individ came out on 27th January, I found myself invigorated by a Christmas-like joy and anticipation, over a month after the festivities.
This year will see The Dodos hit a decade since Meric Long, the band’s founder, introduced Dodo Bird to San Francisco. Since 2005 we’ve been blessed with six albums from Long and his one permanent bandmate, Logan Kroeber, as well as the change in name to The Dodos. The band have developed a solid international fan base and are constantly picking up new followers. Long started the band off with just his laidback guitar and deadpan vocals. Adding Kroeber (whose specialty is Ewe Drumming – the art of African tribal drum ensembles) really set the band on their run to creating what we hear in Individ.
The beauty of this album is the band’s juking between styles; in particular, the album demonstrates how relaxing vocals, high tempo drums, and peaceful guitar melodies can be cut between or combined together to produce truly exquisite sounds. Having been attracted to Individ by the way Long’s smooth voice somehow dripped off Kroeber’s rapid drumming in Competition, the thing that struck while listening to the entire album was that each song shared this very special quality.
The most interesting tracks on the album aren’t necessarily the best in this case. Competition and Retriever, both pre-releases, and The Tide, which came out with the album, are all what we’d expect to woo us from The Dodos. The guitar riffs are flawless and that unique beat can’t escape being mentioned when it comes to praising these songs. But we know that the band can do this, and that’s why it was some of the other songs on the album that I’ll give a bit more credit.
Halfway through the album we hit Darkness, a song lying somewhere between a kick-back to Long’s folk-y debut and their current style. There’s a serenity to Darkness that I haven’t heard in their stuff before, and it was my favourite part to the album as a whole. We get a preview of this sort of deviation from the band’s typical style in the opening track, Precipitation, which starts with an uncharacteristic tranquility before kicking into a higher gear halfway through. Adding a satisfying symmetry to the album, Pattern/Shadow concludes the tracklist with oscillations between rock, and a new, calmer side to The Dodos that we hear in Darkness and Goodbyes & Endings.
Polyvinyl Records (to whom The Dodos are signed) were very successful in 2014 with Alvvays and Generationals dominating the indie scene and seeming to achieve a perpetual status on the front pages of music blogs all over the web. Individ being their first album release of 2015, Polyvinyl couldn’t have started the year stronger. The Dodos have not disappointed with their latest oeuvre: there are songs for their incumbent fan base, tracks to win them new fans, and glimpses at new styles to sustain our intrigue. 2015 is set to be a good year for music and there’s eleven months to go, but come the end of the year I can imagine Individ remaining one of my favourite releases – I say bring on the competition.