The Dodos – Individ

individLet’s take a ride. The coastline to our side, a tinged horizon overhead, and without a care in the world we’ll go wherever the road takes us. If this is a scene yet to feature in an angst-ridden, reflective or simply existential movie – think Garden State, or any Zach Braff movie for what it’s worth – then it ought to be rectified with The Dodos providing that iconic soundtrack to shake off the overtones of ennui.

Returning here with their sixth studio effort, the San Francisco duo comprising Meric Long and Logan Kroeber have all but ditched their No Color acoustics and seem to have been in good spirits. While Individ follows the more subdued and melancholic 2013 release, Carrier, their latest album heralds a focus shift towards the optimistic, yet bittersweet. While the majority of the album offers uptempo indie antics, they don’t fail to drop in a few slow burning and soothingly gentle pieces to create a truly rich release. Meric’s transfixing yet hushed vocals are here increasingly low and sullen, yet somehow when taken together it refuses to drag or descend into lamentation. Instead we are treated to 38 minutes of Yellow Ostrich meets The Morning Benders and I, quite simply, love it: the way the rousing clatter of drum beats carry along dream-like, cryptic vocals really wisps you away to your teen years - Individ is an oddly nostalgic listen.

Discussing the release in a recent interview, the duo described it as awash with an instinctive freedom: "The songs came together easily, there was not a lot questioning, just moving ahead with the feeling that we were on the right track. We were freed up to do whatever came naturally.” The result is such tracks as “Competition” and “Goodbyes and Endings”: fast-paced and distinctly indie, all the while retaining the twofold extinct birds’ moody charm. Album opener, “Precipitation”, follows suit with Arcade Fire-esque violin effects and heaps of delay underlying Long’s world-weary warbles.

If these are inadequate to get you through those January blues, then Individ’s early-released single “Retriever” offers a medicine of real efficacy. The track really strikes the core of this album, outlining the blueprint for what it is all about – the synthesis of light and dark, the uptempo and downtempo. On the other hand you have such tracks as “Bastard” featuring Guided By Voices style grungey riffing, offering some welcome light relief from its fast-paced predecessors.

But despite its intricacies, Individ is a novum in The Dodos’ repertoire leaving in the side a thorn of ambivalence. It’s a distinctive anomaly, standing as something more simplified, positive, and straightforward than their past efforts – more a soundtrack to summer than a permanent feature of your record collection – and I don’t go to The Dodos for positivity. I go to them like I turn to The Notwist or The Shins: for moodiness. Individ is thoroughly enjoyable and well worth repeated listens, but if you’re expecting Carrier #2 then brace yourself for disappointment. It’s just too joyful.

Release: 30th January 2015, Morr Music

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