For the past several years, guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber -- collectively The Dodos -- have been criss-crossing the country, delivering audiences the propulsive folk-rock sound that has made them one of 2008's most acclaimed bands. Propulsive might actually be an understatement to describe the two, as the group's dynamic songs often find Long fingerpicking and strumming his acoustic guitar at a feverish pace while Kroeber channels his background in heavy metal into a thundering percussive racket. For an audience member, it feels like there's always the potential for the whole thing to fly off the rails, but the two have developed such a chemistry that instead the group excels, weaving deftly between tender moments and furious crescendoes.
Released in March on French Kiss Records, the band's new album, Visiter, captures this chemistry wonderfully, offering a very strong collection of songs that is rightfully earning them international critical praise. Smart production helps capture much of The Dodos' big live sound. Kroeber's tom-tom drums sound particularly thick as they guide the songs, while liberal reverb intensify the clang and frenzy of vocals, guitar, and drums alike. Smart use of layered instrumentation, stereo and space make Visiter a record that richly rewards detailed listening with a good pair of headphones.
As Meric Long sings in "Fools," The Dodos are indeed "wandering" musicians, touching a number of different styles of rock music over Visiter's hour length. Fans of the group's first album, Beware of the Maniacs, will welcome the melodic folk-pop found in a number of songs, but they might be surprised by the band's willingness to delve into more progressive and psychedelic heavy rock terrain as well. Several tracks clock in at over six minutes, showcasing the band's ability to write multi-movement pieces buoyed by performance skills that keep them moving at a brisk pace. Long's lyrics, meanwhile, are relatively restrained, offering sketches of personal relationships and introspective self-examination that allow for multiple listener interpretations.
While the album's sonic breadth keeps it challenging, the CD may suffer a lack of overall cohesion. It's a feeling that diminishes with repeated listens, although the latter half still retains a little bit of a pinball feel, bouncing between more challenging prog songs and more immediately accessible pop ones. Kroeber and Long succeed most when they find a balance between the two extremes, as terrific songs like "Jodi" prove that they can use psychier elements and sophisticated composition alongside thoroughly hummable melodies. All told, there are a ton of great songs here, and fans of psych rock, folk and pop will find much to like in this excellent release.