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“Dolby’s Top 25 Dodos Songs”

So I couldn’t help but notice that, like, The Dodos are the best da** band on the planet (even better yes than… gasp… ye olde holy and righteous Trapper of the Blitzen varieties). And I couldn’t help but notice that… holy he**… that’s only two people makin’ all that unholy racket, Meric Long on guitar and vox and Logan Kroeber on drums and percussion, after all these years, just like they were on their 2008 critical breakthrough Visiter.

As I think I stated in my generally glowing if slightly tempered review of Certainty Waves of this year, I at this time (2008) found the Dodos songs I heard (“Walking”; “Fools”) incredibly grating. Incidentally, I was really falling in love with Califone around this time, how they’d make complex, textural noise so organically and hew it into anthemic, catchy and awesome songs, somehow achieving the same thing on every album just in a different way. In a similar stratagem, every Dodos album seems to be paying off for me these days, from the spellbindingly poppy and beautiful Time to Die to the undeniably visceral and rhythmic No Color to the painfully melancholy Carrier to Individ which is just so QUINTESSENTIALLY DODOS it makes me wanna cry to Certainty Waves on which, if nothing else, you have to just credit for still doing what they do, meaning it, and doing it with high, unflagging energy.

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25 “The Strums” (Time to Die)

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I don’t actually like this song in terms of what it’s trying to be “about,” I guess. The two sets of lyrics which stand out are “Soon you’ll be overrating us” and “Soon you’ll go get your daddy’s gun” and to me these two lines would probably apply to two different sociological realms, hence giving them no due association with one another in a rock song. Well, anyway, it is INSPIRED, for better or worse, and musically it’s just one more enjoyable earmark on what’s probably their most underrated album.

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24 “God?” (Visiter)

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Almost as if the band knew that 2008’s Visiter would be the album that put them on the map and made them famous throughout the whole blogosphere, they gave it a finale that was LARGER THAN LIFE, zooming out about as much as you can zoom out on a song, thematically, and questioning whether a higher deity exists in terms of this life or not. One thing it should be commended for is having pretty much a spare, bare Dodos minimum instrumentation (with again that impossibly rich guitar sound which I have no idea how he gets), and with one interrogation, one rhapsodic plaint on the microphone, forging an artistic statement so dark and haunting that afterwards, you probably couldn’t even TAKE any more music if you tried.

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23 “Bubble” (Individ)

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I don’t think the release of a new Dodos album in 2015, the year of Fetty Wap, Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen, was really sending anybody into like a Beatlemania-level frenzy (pencil note: they’re not as big of Dodos nerds as me). Well, I almost think this tepid response has helped it and fueled its fire over the past few years, and it’s even possible that it’s the band’s best effort. Again, the “Individ” album title is the same thing: hardly too alluring or thrilling upon initial examination, but eventually unfurling the band’s most endearing, if not necessarily best, attribute: their obstinate refusal to add another member or stop what they’ve always done on a rudimentary level. Individ marks not only Long and Kroeber’s continuing togetherness but also what I notice as a lack of separation between preparation and execution: for all the intricate melodies and hooks all over this album, they still had fun putting them to wax, which is every bit as important.

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22 “The Season” (Visiter)

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If “God?” is the refreshing and final bout of existential uncertainty at the end of Visiter, “The Season” is the very nadir of uncomfortable, extant bouts with sanity, the strewn pieces of a breakup coagulating and forming this long venting session which would have been in no way out of place on the Maury Povich show. It’s helped by a multifarious structure which finds it sneaking in in ambience and then building to a full-sound catharsis midway through.

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21 “Acorn Factory” (Time to Die)

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Although I’m pretty sure it’s just a guitar he’s using, Meric Long gets this undeniably rustic effect he uses on “Acorn Factory” which resembles a banjo and conjures to mind undeniably scenes of nature which might be filled with things like “acorns,” et. al. This track would have made a great album closeur because stylistically it’s a departure from the rest of the project and belied by the playful crux of what they band is doing is this great climax in the chorus over a sharp major-chord progression.

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20 “The Tide” (Individ)

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You gotta like a song like “The Tide” because… again… the modifications, the adjustments are MICROSCOPIC, this time coming in the form of a whammy bar played into an echo chamber on Long’s guitar for the intro, before again dissolving into the signature nonchalant Dodos vocal that is just too cool for school. Heee’s… baaaaack…

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19 “Stranger” (Carrier)

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Carrier used to be my great melancholy, despondent Autumn album back in ’13 when it came out, so it’s funny to listen to tracks like this now and notice just how BUSY they are, that relentless Kroeber percussion almost reminding you of the buzzing of flies or the racketing of mosquitos on a summer night. With the vocal production on this album big, full of overdubs and replications, Long’s singing still takes the forefront as the most showcased item, but there is that percussion in close second, always benchmarking this music as quintessentially rhythmic and setting them apart from their pretender folk cohorts, in terms of musical tenacity.

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18 “Troll Nacht” (Time to Die)

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This solid Time to Die album track provides a sort of languid alteration from the former heavily sociological lyrical subject matter and also gives the listener an idea of the types of things that can spawn creative periods: “It’s been three days of drums and snares / Out on the streets and in my head / The piccolos are in this bed / With you and me just lying and / Saying always”.

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17 “IF” (Certainty Waves)

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Whoa, did not expect THIS from Dodos in 2018 – an even louder, more rambunctious output where the guitar stabs sound more like tantrums by The Jesus Lizard than the gentle post-rock hipsterdom of Don Caballero or Enon. “IF” marches in second on Certainty Waves and if nothing else ensures that the album will leave an impression, with undeniable volume and an unlikely metamorphosis back into signature Dodos mellowness within, all upon impeccable band tightness, which should be expected by now.

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16 “Red and Purple” (Visiter)

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With songs like this, what I consider just about the stylistic benchmark of Dodos albums, it’s a wonder this band isn’t called the “Tom Tom Club,” given the ferocity with which Logan Kroeber is hitting that sucka. I mean who rides the toms that much and with such a weird, syncopated rhythm? It works, though, probably since Meric Long’s voice and songwriting are so good that his melodic narratives take the forefront, relegating everything else in the song back to the territory of “decoration.” But what a decoration it is.

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15 “Small Deaths” (Time to Die)

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Talk about dying a million “small deaths”… try following up the indie rock demigod-status Visiter with a new LP using the exact same rudiments and band members. Again, I can’t emphasize this enough: it’s probably common lore that this album were a disappointment, and nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, even with its fairly run-of-the-mill, nondescript rhythm-rock opener here, you almost sense some new layer or timbre in Meric Long’s voice, the type of thing that can only be gained through vivid life experience and which is impossible to fake. Your heart breaks right away when you put Time to Die on and they put it back together little by little, all throughout.

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14 “Black Night” (No Color)

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Boy is Logan Kroeber havin’ fun playing the drums like an octopus on this album and they’re so GARAGE-y that they almost sound like little kids’ drums, like Fisher Price, or something. And in general, this music does sort of have the charm of a little kid, the simplicity, the purity, in this case manifest in the fact that it is just guitar, vocals and percussion helming the operation. “Black Night” is the first song on 2011’s busier, more generically energetic followup to the excellent Time to Die.

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13 “Jodi” (Visiter)

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Following as it does the droll, microcosmic “Park Song,” “Jodi” pretty much HAS to be long-winded in order to work, and given its intense relationship immediacy in the lyrics, you’ll forgive this band for never doing instrumentals, as technically gifted as they are, because Meric Long’s songwriting is just that good. Of course, there’s a lot that can’t be explained here (“Your face is pale / Your lips are red / Your eyes are closed / You might be dead”). ??? Hmm, I put this post together just too late for Halloween, too. “Jodi” could probably work as an epic, long-winded instrumental to follow “Park Song” (the type of thing which indeed is almost called for given the torrent of personal lyricism lambasting Visiter in general). But then, women had to step in and ruin it. Wouldn’t ya know ’em.

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12 “Two Medicines” (Time to Die)

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Although I didn’t rank it premiere among Time to Die selections on this list, it’s particular during songs like “Two Medicines” that I wonder… how the he** did the critics miss that this album is a classic. As I allude to before, it’s far less long-winded and overbearing than its predecessor, the musical statements coming in easily potable size, juxtaposed with impossible closeness to each other with beautiful swatch and jazzy eccentricity. Also, at their core, their still Dodos (which is obviously the best part).

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11 “Precipitation” (Individ)

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Fast forwarding now from 2009 to 2015 (aren’t these lists a haze) we come to the stubbornly compelling and hypnotic sixth LP Individ. “Precipitation” is the exact kind of opener it needed – it’s like, they’re still doing that busy, hipster-rockabilly guitar and drums stuff, but I’m still not sick of it! In fact, I like it even more and like them even more for sticking to their guns like this!

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10 “Park Song” (Visiter)

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I didn’t task myself with ranking The Dodos’ ALBUMS amongst each other (thank God) and though yes if you were being a busy body you could probably derive some algorithm for figuring it out based on a points system from my song rankings. Well, but here’s where things get complicated, because what “Park Song” does for Visiter is so much more than provide it a good song. It brings it a gasp of oxygen at the ocean’s surface, that sea of romance Meric Long is swimming so volatilely in – in “Park Song” we find him with a beautiful, peaceful resignation before growing into a man in a bouncy and folky departure from the former intensity, appreciating parks and dogs, but most of all, still not REALLY actually having a clue. No, not really.

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9 “Sleep” (No Color)

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Probably as close as The Dodos get to a “stomp” at any point in their illustrious career (especially since the new album seems more like a soundtrack for murdering parrots to), “Sleep” gallops along with twangy guitar and an expectedly ironic lyric arrangement, given its jovial stylistic tone: “I cannot sleep / I cannot think / I cannot dream”, another becoming wrinkle rearing its head in the form of the wonky phrasing of this chorus, revolving around these three little plaints rather than a power of two.

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8 “Transformer” (Carrier)

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I was just trying to get to the bottom of what “Transformer,” the opener on 2013’s solid Carrier, was about, and to be honest by the time you pinpoint the exact nature of the subject matter the end result is a little disappointing, compared to just sitting back and letting this album soundtrack your fall ambience, an album which, as far as I can remember, I always played straight through and found no bad tracks on, provided the mood called for a dash of melancholy and somberness.

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7 “This is a Business” (Time to Die)

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The jazzy kookiness continues here with the capitalism-chafing “This is a Business” (well actually it kind of BEGINS with this cut on the album). It’s something to marvel at the emotion Long gets up for this song, making you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s the product of a distinct vision, the type of thing that’s palpable and fills up the room, and he had a crazy time conveying it.

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6 “Pattern/Shadow” (Individ)

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So there it is, maybe, on the final song on Individ, an INKLING of foreshadowing toward the grunge-metal turn the band would take for its next album… well this band just has so much FUN playing with sounds that you never take any one texture or pitch too seriously (it’s like the weather in Colorado… if you don’t like it wait five minutes and it’ll change). Also I love the conceptual nature of this tune, allotting these two apparently all important ends of a dichotomy “pattern” and “shadow” as sovereign and giving them this spooky poignance on this finale that skates cool-eyed into the night, capping off a great album.

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5 “Paint the Rust” (Visiter)

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Just the very THOUGHT of Visiter having a centerpiece is a quite intimidating prospect, given the requisite vociferous emotion and intensity that would go into such a thing, but here it is probably, along with what’s possibly the band’s best song intro on any cut and an awesome time signature/tempo change midway through. Long’s vocals prance along with a sort of twisted, obstinate certainty, a playfulness failing to disguise or conceal his rage, but the production effects give his voice and this music at large a supremely textural feel and ransack any idea that he might be carrying it all on his back himself. Well, OUT of the studio he is. That’s not what I meant.

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4 “Going under” (No Color)

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The first 20 seconds of this song alone mark such a stupefying set of thematic shifts (the inexplicable, jarring noise at the beginning, the simple but hypnotic beat by Kroeber on those Fisher Price drums that reminds you of the clock counting down on your listening disposition, and then that pristine guitar arpeggio) that it almost couldn’t be any other band doing this stuff. With how fun this ragtag, pots-and-pans type music is, it’s hard to believe any people out there listen to stupid computerized glop like Gorillaz. But I guess they do, song bong smoking implied.

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3 “Bastard” (Individ)

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I still remember actually before I had Spotify and during a time when I didn’t have Internet in my home, I sat and just listened to Individ a month or two after it came out, straight through on one audio YouTube link. I think I was doing other things, like reading articles, and it was all so purposeful and beautiful that I sort of lost track of what was going on, that is until “Bastard,” the second to last track, an astonishingly bare predicament of what might be a kissoff to a parent or a former friend: “I’m no longer your bastard”. The song is delivered without drums, an exceptional rarity in the catalogue of eight-armed Logan Kroeber, and with a tense and artful guitar riff churned out under beautiful texture and noise.

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2 “Fables” (Time to Die)

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Now, from a pop songwriting sense, THIS IS THE BEST DODOS SONG and one of the best songs ever, a sort of heartbreakingly beautiful indie anthem which makes me glad it did come out in the ’00s decade (barely). In terms of compiling playlists with one song from each of many bands, you could do much worse than this one with Dodos, whereas in a complete listen to Time to Die, “Fables” likewise blends in and doesn’t hog too much of the emotion. Meric Long’s vocal is as emotionally removed and serene as ever, which makes you wonder even more what the he** he’s actually talking about, after all.

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1 “Joe’s Waltz” (Visiter)

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Direct human interaction is such a lost art even in literature, it’s troubling to think of the depths to which it’s plumbed these days in music… well there’s always this wild and unapproachable Visiter album track dedicated apparently to somebody on the streets of San Francisco who really sent Long reeling into a sort of existential, or at least sociological, crisis, the most haunting aspect perhaps coming in the final verse when Long turns the song’s primary litigious theme upon himself, the narrator: “You need help / You need help / You need help”.

 

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