The Dodos’ fifth full-length album carries the most cumbersome of weights: death. Particularly that of Christopher Reimer, the band’s touring guitarist and former member of Women, who passed away just more than a year before “Carrier’s” release. It is in Reimer’s spirit that “Carrier” was written, both musically and lyrically, establishing a record that is emblazoned with as much nimble-armed musicianship as past Dodos works, but takes on a larger, ominous sensibility.
Guitarist/vocalist Meric Long prefers a subdued, articulate approach in making his hooks on “Carrier” — an undoubted influence of the largely post-punk inclined Reimer. It’s in its most blatant fashion on “Confidence,” the album’s lead single, which holds off on the signature Dodo breakdown (see “Fools” from the 2008 release“Visiter”) but rather introduces itself slowly, caressing more than bombarding. Long’s separation from his open-fire strumming does not stop there; there’s also the last minute of “The Current,” when Long’s perfectly power-pop solo is looped on top of some pedaling overdrive, only to happen again four minutes later on “Destroyer.” The second half of Dodos seems to be placing less pressure on himself on “Carrier.” Drummer Logan Kroeber stops hitting the rims of his instrument, pursuing a full-bodied approach. The Dodos’ percussive playing of records prior is dismembered on the new one, which features a duo that is still interwoven yet slightly restrained on certain numbers. As such, album opener “Transformer” is a tender song that exhibits a classic Long/Logan combination that crashes and patters in classic organic form. This contrasts with the far less intricate “Family,” which is less a percussive force and simply drums and guitar.
These shifts in Dodo musicality, although subtle, are attributes of the solemn atmosphere of “Carrier;” on that note, I suppose its toned-down quality is in homage to Reimer. It’s in the spacious opening tones of “Death,” and to a lesser degree in “Holidays,” that The Dodos break down, but not with vamped up meter or strumming frenzy. The breakdown is purely emotional — “Death” features solely Long’s voice and guitar. The effect is Bon Iver-like, encapsulating an emotion that is yes, profound, but also widespread and accessible.
Even in the record’s touching and distinctively Dodos moments (such as the last 30 seconds or so of “Substance”), it is undeniable that Reimer’s own guitar styling provided enough of an inspiration for Long’s performance on “Carrier.” In reverence, the Dodos’ knack for creating propulsive sounds comes through with turbulence as compared to its last four records, putting more emphasis on dedicating itself to a personal hero instead.