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Hey Bands I Like, Don’t Listen To Me

By Chris Polley | Music | August 11, 2009 |

By Chris Polley | Music | August 11, 2009 |

Time_To_Die-The_Dodos_480.jpgThe Dodos: Time To Die
[Frenchkiss Records]

I’ve always thought it dangerous to leave less than two years in between releasing albums. I read those advance blog posts hyping an artist’s upcoming release not but 12-16 months after their last effort with cautious, squinty eyes, pleading quietly to their digital press photo, “Don’t you know I can wait patiently for another six months? Why don’t you get back in the studio and make sure everything’s exactly the way you want it. Just do this solid for me, okay? You’ll thank me in 2010 when you get the first 10/10 on Pitchfork in forty years.”

But then a band like San Francisco’s The Dodos have to go and prove that another half-year or so tinkering with tracks and effects in ProTools would have gone completely against the words of wisdom, “leave well enough alone.” I really don’t know what the duo could have done to make their third album Time to Die, their follow-up to their breakthrough 2008 full-length Visiter, better had they somehow listened to my advice (nevermind the fact that I was talking to a computer and not the actual musicians). Sure, there is one misstep on the otherwise impressively meticulous and gorgeous collection of folk-rock tunes. Then again, there’s part of me that thinks I’ll eventually get over the excessively manic strumming on - err - “The Strums” and learn to appreciate its otherwise quiet beauty, replete with marimba undertones and brass section bridge.

And even then, if they had gone in and “fixed” the track in question to my liking, then I wouldn’t have been able to throw songs like “Fables” on the car stereo when I needed to calm myself down and not run over unwitting pedestrians during the lunch hour or “Two Medicines” on my tinny laptop speakers when I needed to hear what the most badass acoustic guitar fingerpicking sounds like in the middle of a boredom-filled weekday afternoon. Because, you see, not only are these two cuts (my favorites off Time To Die) the ones that will go on 2009 mix CDs, but as I make my way through even the morose forest-glitch of “Troll Nacht” or the slight percussive cacophony of “This Is A Business”, it has become clear that Time To Die is a must have for any serious guitar player or drummer not next year, and not even this December, but right now. So thank you, The Dodos. Thank you for not listening to my call for reconsideration re: your release date for this, your unbeatable new album.

Those who like the relaxing and rustling melodies of this album should also certainly check out what made The Dodos a big deal in the first place: last year’s Visiter, but I have to be honest. While it impresses in all the same places that the new one does (these two guys have some of the most unique ways of combining pop pleasures with syncopated and flurried rhythms), I can imagine it must be hard to listen to the two albums in opposite order. Meric Long’s soft but confident voice sounds like it’s been through a crash course in projection since 2008 and the overall smoothness of the band’s instrumentation is so satisfying on Time To Die that going back to the raw and at-times-underwhelming mix of sounds on Visiter could be jarring. In fact, the band’s live set can verify that. In person, the duo (and touring member on the trash can, no joke - it’s wicked) sculpts a sonic boom so powerful that it’s amazing that the often hipper and more dirty lo-fi recording technique is what they chose for Visiter in the first place. Luckily, they must have realized this with the intensely positive feedback during their nationwide tour last year that it violently slingshot them back into the studio almost immediately to show how gigantic and brain-busting they could sound on record. And poof! Less than a year later we are graced with the result: one of my personal picks for the best of 2009, Time To Die by The Dodos.

Time To Die - The Dodos

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