PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Dodos: No Color

Everything you need to know about the new Dodos album can literally be heard in its first seven seconds: the drums are back, and they are very, very loud.


No Color

Label: Frenchkiss
US Release Date: 2011-03-15

Everything you need to know about the new Dodos album can literally be heard in its first seven seconds: the drums are back, and they are very, very loud.

While it would be easy to characterize No Color -- the band's fourth full-length -- as a retreat back into the "indie-percussive-folk" sound that they made their name with on 2008's Visiter (and only somewhat abandoned on the indifferently-received 2009 follow-up Time to Die), such a description would gloss over the fact that not only is the band trying to sound like their former selves, they're actually writing songs like their former selves as well.

It's not that Time to Die was necessarily a bad album or an outright stylistic detour -- the addition of keyboardist Keaton Snyder honestly didn't add as many new textures as fans thought he would -- it was just a very muted album. While before the band virtually centered all of their songs around the drums as a lead instrument, on Time to Die they flipped that dynamic, and the drums now merely supported singer Meric Long's guitar work (now amplified to the nth degree) instead of forcing him to audibly overcome Logan Kroeber's pounding of skins -- a move that ultimately deflated the tension and energy in their music. Yet that alone wasn't the reason why Time to Die disappeared as quickly as it arrived -- Long's songwriting just lost a lot of its edge. While certain moments harkened back to Visiter's many highlights ("Two Medicines" chief among them), the duo's need for stretching out in new directions uncovered more weakness than they did strengths, showing that Long's guitar-work on its own was (surprisingly) not enough to carry a song. As such, it's easy to hear No Color as nothing more than the sound of backpedaling, glorious backpedaling.

So, instead of breaking out of their rut by trying even wilder tangents (or going to the other end of that extreme and trying that whole "sell-out" thing everyone keeps talking about), the duo instead decided to streamline their sound, and they wound up finding a perfect balance between their percussive-folk leanings and their outright pop instincts on No Color. After single "Black Night" opens up the record with the sound of gigantic, pounding drums, it then launches into one of Long's most considered quick-strum melodies, all while he throws out missives of being burned by a mysterious flame after obsessing over them for too long. The lyrical ellipses continue on the shifting "Going Under", where Long's words manage to be vague enough to warrant meaning without sounding overly labored (the song opens with the line "This takes us by surprise, I'm sure / Are you the curse? Are you the cure?"). Best of all, it seems that Long has fully grown into the role of vocalist with this effort, finding the perfect balances between singing dramatically and singing emotionally, perfecting it to the point that even though Neko Case is listed as giving backing vocals on a lot of tracks, you barely even hear her on the album.

Yet perhaps the most fascinating aspect of No Color is that even after all the attempted stylistic detours of Time to Die, it's No Color's latter-half that finds the band borrowing from more stylistic templates than ever before, and almost all for the better. The frantic picking on closer "Don't Stop" sounds like a joyous full-band cross between John Fahey and Will Stratton, and the positively upbeat "Don't Try and Hide It" might have well been an AM radio hit in the 1970s, as it simply radiates sunshine from Long's simple chord progressions and impassioned singing. That's not to say that the band switches up their sound on every track -- they have just found a way to incorporate a new variety of influences to the Dodos' signature strum-n-pound sound, and each new track brings slight, subtle mutations on their key strengths (even if the Sufjan-esque vibraphones used in "Hunting Season" wind up disappointing a bit: they are used in the intro and are then promptly dropped, hinting at what could've been but never heard again).

With all of that said though, it's somewhat ironic that the one problem for an album titled No Color is that despite all of its interesting eccentrics, this disc is fairly monochromatic. Long's guitar sounds almost the same in every track, and the tempo rarely fluctuates; as such, a lot of the songs can blur together on a straight-through listen, which means fans can be forgiven if the middle passages of "Going Under" and "Hunting Season" sound way too similar to each other. That said, however, this proves to be only a slight problem for the duo. After all, No Color wasn't meant to break any barriers: it's merely an affirmation of what people have known and loved about the duo for some time now. To the fans who stuck it out during Time to Die, this album may sound like the band is overcorrecting a bit, but in all honesty, overcorrection has never sounded so good.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.