In a way, Individ sounds exactly how you would expect a Dodos record to; it features Logan Kroeber’s relentlessly intricate drum patterns, Meric Long’s violent assault on his guitar strings, and reverb heavy vocals that float lazily above the instrumental chaos. After six studio albums, it’s safe to say that The Dodos have figured out their niche, but that hasn’t stopped them from maturing and developing from the almost-entirely-acoustic sound of Beware the Maniacs and Visiter to the biting aggression that is Individ. In fact, Individ seems to be the closest companion to Visiter the group has released thus far.
The opening track, “Precipitation” acts as a sort of prologue to what’s ahead. Distorted swelling guitar chords provide a foundation for a repeating finger picked guitar ostinato paired with a familiar driving pattern on floor toms. Long’s vocals enter, “Until now there was a reason/let go of it, it’s not relevant” as if to foreshadow the impending introduction of their beefed-up sound. If it weren’t for the increasingly dense layers of instruments and vocal harmonies, one could reasonably mistake the track as belonging to an earlier album. That is, until about the 4 minute mark, where a drastic shift in feel bursts through the gates. In addition to the new, much quicker pulse, the drums sound like Kroeber quadrupled in size, while an even grittier guitar tone takes over. Amidst the ramp-up, Long’s vocals continue to drift lazily in harmony, providing comfort within the clamor.
The rest of the album never fails to maintain the momentum set up by “Precipitation”, continuing the unmistakable drive and melody that so crucially makes up The Dodos’ music, while introducing previously unheard of elements. “Bubble”, for example makes use of an almost St. Vincent-like guitar refrain, while the album’s slowest track, “Bastard” trudges along with the help of the uncharacteristically simple instrumental parts. Throughout each track, though, the bite that makes Individ stand out is alive and well.
The album ends as it began-a fiery sustain by distorted guitar, a first half built upon a repetitive guitar riff and driving drum rhythms, and a second half injected with a shot of adrenaline. The final definitive downbeat acts as a declaration, as if to sum up the force and grit that made up the past 38 minutes. Despite its towering, closed-fisted sound, Individ fails to recreate the anthemic catchiness of songs like “Fools” or “Joe’s Waltz”. It’s like putting a new, more powerful engine into a car, but getting rid of the charming fuzzy dice. It’s fun and exciting as hell, but it may be missing the lasting power that has kept me returning to their earlier work.
Highlights: “Precipitation”, “Competition”, “Pattern/Shadow”