The Dodos - Time To Die

Following up a critical masterpiece is never an easy task for a band, for it seems no matter what you do on the subsequent record, it will likely always be overshadowed and compared to its superb predecessor.

Following up a critical masterpiece is never an easy task for a band, for it seems no matter what you do on the subsequent record, it will likely always be overshadowed and compared to its superb predecessor. Such is the case with San Francisco’s The Dodos new album ‘Time To Die’, which, while being a good album in its own right, seems somewhat safe and more straightforward musically when compared to 2008’s exquisitely brilliant ‘Visiter’. Producer Phil Ek has come in and, while not necessarily cleaning up the bands distinct sound, at least made it seem more composed and balanced, as opposed to the wildly intricate and enthralling highs and lows.

Album opener ‘Small Deaths’ has a very pronounced Shins sound to it, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t bode well for such an innovative, inventive band such as the Dodos that they are echoing such a recognizable sound on the first track of their new record. The songs are still driven along by off-kilter beats and unique time structures, as well as the relentless percussion of Logan Kroeber, it just doesn’t necessarily have the freshness of their earlier material. ‘Longform’ is carried along by the intricate guitar work and penetrating vocals of Meric Long, and succeeds in carving it’s own musical path instead of hinting at the sounds of others. ‘Fables’ also works well on the record, with the band staying true to their acoustic guitar based formula, while also adding Keaton Snyder’s welcome vibraphone which only adds dimension to their sound. The pounding rhythms of the song carry the track forward to the swirling chorus, which is delicate and indelible, before finally giving way to the cacophonous coda where the distinctive talents of the duo really are allowed to shine.

‘Time To Die’ isn’t filled with missteps by any means, it just doesn’t have such far reaching successes as the groups previous work. A track like ‘The Strums’, while being pleasant enough, just seems to stay in one place for far too long to remain interesting. The song just seems to pass by quickly without once giving the listener anything too unusual sonically, which is atypical of the Dodos creative output. ‘This Is A Business’ is far too blatant and obvious with it’s intentions to command attention, and lacks the subtlety and artistry of the bands older songs. Plus the chorus is just plain lousy and overbearing. ‘Two Medicines’ sounds like bad Animal Collective, and, coupled with some dreadful lyrics, represents the albums true low point.

‘Troll Nacht’ finds the band trying to recapture some of the epic appeal of the more sprawling numbers on ‘Visiter’ over the course of the tracks six and a half minutes, but again the track is bogged down by it’s own ambition and never truly gets off the ground. It plods along for far too long without changing pace or tempo, and ends up a bit of a muddled mess. ‘Acorn Factory’ is another Shins-like number, and again is a nice, tranquil song, but other than some nuanced guitar work by Long, the song lacks the innovative spark listeners have come to expect from the Dodos.

The album does close strongly with the lengthy title track, which goes from understated elegance to percussive chaos over the course of the song’s six minutes, and certainly plays to the bands strengths of effortlessly switching up their styles and structures seamlessly. But these flashes of brilliance are too few and far between to make ‘Time To Die’ truly distinguished, especially for a group that has been so consistently ahead of the curve musically. Hopefully this album represents a small step sideways for the band on a career arc that thus far has only featured great leaps forward.

Tags: The Dodos, Reviews, Album Reviews

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