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As the majority of today’s generation moves online for their music, a great deal of things are lost. Kids no longer buy full albums; an intimacy with an artist isn’t based off that first-listen-over-a-radio; but even more often than both of those, an appreciation of album art is completely lost. Failing to hold a CD or record in your hand–to flip it over, feel it’s edges, leaf through the booklet, and see the inside organs of the album–is sacrificed for the immediacy and convenience of online streaming. Now, I’m no deity; on any given day I’ll have listened to something via YouTube or Ex.fm, but flipping through records in a store still takes up a great deal of my time.
Stumbling upon Visitor five years ago in a store back home started an infatuation with The Dodos that may not have began until years later. The album cover, completely white with a yellow pill-shaped oval poorly colored in with crayon and “Visitor” written over it, looked like refrigerator art. Go look. That laughable “drawing” was odd enough for me to give it a chance, though. Hours later, their rhythmic indie folk was pushing out of my speakers full force and my ears were smiling with the find.
Most everyone last night at The Paradise found The Dodos have that same effect on them, and eagerly they waited for the three men to take the stage. Before their set, however, we were treated to an impressive set by Chinese-American multi-instrumentalist Dustin Wong. With one guitar and a series of loop and distortion pedals, Wong created planets for everyone to explore. Each song saw him swap between finger plucking and pick strumming as he sat in a plain wooden chair, hunched over his guitar to see that every note was hit. With that one instrument, bass notes fell like rocks amidst Buble Bobble twinkling and industrial layered loops, a modest tap guitar part dropping in from time to time just to sugarcoat the rest. By the time he brought the crowd back down to Earth at the end of his set, they cheered so loudly that he was taken off guard, laughing in shock as they didn’t let up until he was almost off the stage, causing him to return to the mike several times to say thank you through a choked surprise.
“Soul you had to find your way / gone you had to fly away,” sang guitarist Meric Long, starting The Dodos set with the anthem-like “Confidence.” Straight off of their new album, Carrier, the song felt appropriate as the first track of the evening. The trio have been working to complete their sound since they formed in 2005. Long’s expert songwriting abilities and Logan Kroeber’s training in West African Ewe drumming have crafted music that sets them apart from their contemporaries, and with the full force of their new record they raise the volume to new levels. The two have found their way, and now with a third guitarist to round out their sound, they are taking flight.
“We’re hobo janitors,” Kroeber said, looking around at their outfits. All dressed in white T-shirts and khakis (except for Long), it appeared planned even though they said it was coincidence. The facade made them look young and naive, but their creative knowledge was evident in their playing.
Rhythm, above all else, guides the band. Kroeber’s style of drumming is the main focus of their songs, and the guitar and key parts are structured to give them more definition. Even with the end of “Substance” when all is cut for Long to twiddle a soft guitar solo (angelic spotlight on him and all), his foot could be heard stomping the ground, keeping the beat alive after it had audibly died. Using drums as the weight allows The Dodos room to create music which, upon first listen, falls between math rock and experimental folk. It’s infectious, it’s off-kilter, and it’s deliciously unique.
The Paradise began to swell with more and more love for the group as they made it clear the evening was just as much about having fun as it was about musical accuracy. “Last night we had our first mosh pit,” Long said with a laugh. “So if you feel angry inside, it’s okay. Go for it.”
He then strapped an acoustic guitar around his neck, signifying what I had hoped: Vistor material. The crowd’s soft singing held hands with the group as they transition from “Walking” into the giddy “Red and Purple,” Kroeber and Long passing smiles back in forth as the tempo sped up, ferocity budding from the syncopated guitar and call-and-response sections. No mosh pit started, but Boston twirled in their places and even threw a few fists, too overcome with emotion to let their feet do the dancing.
Somber, jazzy moments (“The Ocean”) and fuzzy Animal Collective stylings (“Good”) eventually made way for an encore of “Transformer” and “Fools.” Waving with hands that must be calloused and raw, the three men thanked the crowd, packed their stuff, and took off. No one was in a hurry to exit, though. Left in awe and admiration of their music, the crowd lingered to absorb what they just saw. Finally a band has created a sound unique enough to last five albums and almost ten years, and best of all, no marketing or packaging was needed to make their success.