The Dodos - Carrier | Album Review | By Volume

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The Dodos

Carrier

A heavy record to carry; a precious one to bear.

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Author: on August 29, 2013
8.8
Polyvinyl
August 27, 2013

“Words we never said – did we really mean them?” Mournful nostalgia rarely captures its object’s essence. The Dodos are a band who’ve always felt knowingly two steps behind, picking up the pieces of their black-and-white histories. And black-and-white is right – there’s no hint of sepia in the elegant images that flower, which I suppose is testament to the way they draw acute feeling through wondering, and through weird but cleansing passages that bleed me dry. What are the cavernous drums towards the close of “Stranger” for, if not to impress that the melody it barges into is important?

I don’t know why, but the Dodos have always been a summer band to me, albeit a hazy, not-quite-focused one. On Carrier this notion finds itself more in the music’s tension than ever before. “Destroyer” is shot through by a pained electric guitar line, the only thing cutting it from a truly ungiving structure; “Substance” closes amid horns that would elsewhere sound jubilant but here can do nothing but lead out a funeral. Death, here, is the veil, a mist which holds every line’s wrist with cruel conviction but never enough force to send it under. That’s the harshest but most distant texture to Carrier; if songs like “Winter” gave you something to walk away with and ponder, I wonder if this record offers that sort of solace. Closer “The Ocean” threatens to, but ultimately teases, neither crashing nor embracing.

But that drift of not-knowing-but,-really,-knowing lifts as well as drops Carrier‘s best moments. In Meric Long’s croons there’s real melody and, at times, real hope – “Tomorrow is just another week,” opens up “Stranger” – and the band follow him into both light and darkness. But the upbeat start of “The Current” never approaches a resolution, never bids anything except questioning naivety. What’s strange is that the wander away from acoustic guitars allows for a more hollow reaction than anything Visiter stumbled through in its precise, polyrhythmic fashion. Everything on Carrier is just as elusive, but with the extra sonic depth comes an added layer of water to pull yourself above.

The result is undeniably weighty, a struggle which almost bypasses demons and wonders what happens when you’ve gone past them. That’s a much bigger question, and it’s one that won’t go away. “Death, what could be worse? If I had something to complain about…” – where that punctuation remains somewhat ambiguous in tone, the wider context finds the ennui and drags it over the picked guitar. But what do you walk away with? Carrier feels trapped, gasping for air and for a line to cut through it all. There’s nothing here to cling to on its own; every shard needs another to feel tangible, which is dizzying and lonely.

And goodness, if it isn’t overwhelming. How many downbeat images can I fit into one piece of writing without sounding beaten down? Carrier travels uphill, but with serious might, and in the end, the picture, fleshed out and real, is one of desire and the force it can possess. The weight of every song here collapses in on the realness of every other and I sit and gaze over what a ruin it’s made of such serious, heavy subject matter. Like all things with incredible mass, its gravity is enormous, playing off its earnest but direct nature and becoming an absolute staple as a result. It still tells less than half the story, but at one point Long sings, “I hope that this relief doesn’t die.” Carrier stands itself halfway between the pain and the relief, and stands itself tall.

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