For bands that can be primarily described as acoustic acts, the window for success is scarcely slim—and it’s only getting narrower. After a few albums, the novelty that at first seemed refreshing and different can grow old. And it only takes a few similar bands to put out greater albums before you’re stuck in the backseat, alone.
Following the breakthrough success of The Dodos’ second album, Visiter, the group opted to endlessly tour and quickly put together a follow up. Call it a cash grab if you will, what it really is is a band striking the iron while it’s still hot. Time to Die may not be a new direction but it is The Dodos: acoustically-driven guitars, driving, propulsive percussion and the duo’s (Meric Long and Logan Kroeber) chant-like vocals. Add a few new touches in production from Phil Ek (Built to Spill, Fleet Foxes, The Shins,) the addition of vibraphonist Keaton Snyder and you have a terrific extension of the same music the San Francisco-based band is known for.
Choosing a producer is always a difficult task but Ek does well in adjusting subtle changes to the band’s arsenal without complicating matters. “This is a Business” offers one of the hardest hitting songs on the album and it’s accordingly signaled within the battling guitars and a heavy barrage of pounding drums. Never looking to the sky for assistance (as a dodo would never do,) the band focuses on the rooted techniques that have already garnered triumph. Finding particular ways to shine light on their fantastic skill, this is a band that has rightfully hit a stride. Long’s guitar is a breath of fresh air on “Fables,” and with Snyder providing the chords to his vocal-led melody; the song is an overwhelmingly soaring high.
What makes The Dodos the kind of band many can love is their outstanding ability at combining both elements of originality and uniqueness with an undying care for the musicality on their songs. Kroeber’s percussion is performed on a few drums but his forceful playing creates a pulsating pump. And Long mirrors that style in a manner that often sounds like he’s hitting his own guitar to resemble something much louder than any old acoustic guitar. In this sense, Snyder fits right in, a classically-trained musician, his vibes punch with the same energy his counterparts do. “The Strums” showcases all of these dynamic forces with seamless skill: Long’s voice towers over everything, Snyder switches between stacked and broken chords and Kroeber’s drums swell with each hit.
When the album first leaked, Long and Kroeber took offense to their art being pirated and illegally shared. In response to that, they sold digital copies and presented their fans with a stream of the album on Time to Die’s official site. This all makes sense, obviously, but luckily this was in preparation for the album’s affluent music. “Small Deaths,” alone, is a richly successful song. Preparing for a situational confrontation, the guitar plays the role of setting the scene before the drums roll right on in. Long’s singing is stunning with the clarity in his tone being a result of Ek’s production.
The Dodos is an acoustic band and the members will be the first ones to admit it too. However, their music never gets old because there is something to behold with every listen. Time to Die reveals a band that is continuing to grow with scintillating results. Luckily for us, no one’s sitting in the backseat here.