On their fifth album, Carrier, Meric Long and Logan Kroeber of The Dodos squeeze every drop out of their concept of prog rock drums, plucky guitars, and vocals. To this basic structure the duo occasionally adds the sounds of a string quartet, and more guitars, and more drums. Like the album cover, the songs are monochromatic with a streak of blue.
Sometimes the guitar-and-drums formula works well, as in "Substance," which opens with a dramatic beat but lets the vocals take up most of the space. These are the best Dodos moments, when the group focuses on melodies and vocal harmonies. At their worst, The Dodos becomes a stereotypical jam band, rushing through good choruses to get to the next instrumental interlude.
Take "Confidence," for example, which is divided neatly in two: the first half of the track is a breezy pop song with plenty of great little hooks, yet the second half is pointless riffing. "Transformer" and "Relief" (The Dodos are fans of one-word titles) also suffer as a result of this schizophrenic approach to songwriting. "Relief," otherwise, is a fantastic song, with melodies that could have been written during The Beatles' trip to India. "The Current" is another gem. Just listen to that smooth trilling chorus. Moments like that will make you wish that the Dodos had spent less energy on what is fun to play, and more on what is fun to listen to.