By Kyle Shaffer
Sometimes when you’ve found what you’re good at, it’s perfectly acceptable to stick with it, pound it out, and see what comes of the cracks and fissures. After all, in an age of technology-aided instant gratification, there’s something to be said about seeing how far you can push a certain constancy before setting your gaze on greener pastures. And while San Francisco natives The Dodos don’t sound complacent, their own particular brand of uniformity proves to be more virtue than vice on their latest, No Color.
From the jittery psych-folk spunk of opener “Black Night” Meric Long and Logan Kroeber set a table over which they talk about all the bizarre stuff that happened in their day. The bouncy guitar and the skittering pulse of Kroeber’s recognizable drumming serve as a floor upon which Long’s scatterbrained ruminations dance and flutter: “Kind heart, kindness. Where you going to, are you going through heaven or hell?” “Going Under” capitalizes on the polyrhythmic punches and accents the group is known for, oscillating between a lilting verse and a more straightforward, dreamy chorus.
“Good” sees the duo painting with broader brushstrokes and primary colors while still finding little nooks and crannies within the song to insert yelps and harmonies to keep things interesting. The frenetic thump in the beginning of “Hunting Season,” coupled with the heavy groove in the song’s bridge, make this track one of the most fun to listen to on the record, while “Don’t Stop” is a sonic smorgasbord of Nick Drake style finger-picking and sample-worthy drumming all hopped up on too many cups of coffee.
For most of the record, The Dodos stick with up-tempo tracks saturated in percussive tenacity that stops just short of sounding overplayed. There are times when you find yourself wanting to take a break to catch your breath, but Long and Kroeber are too ambitious to really fault them for that. And even though the argument could be made that The Dodos are but another installation in a trend of African-influenced pop (I won’t mention an oft-cited namesake that nearly every “ethnic pop” group is compared to these days), songs like those on No Color exhibit a left-of-centeredness that’s simultaneously weird and wonderful enough to single them out from any trend.