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When it came time for the Dodos to begin writing their fifth LP, Carrier, singer/guitarist Meric Long wanted to start over.
The uncertainty of the band's trajectory as well as the passing of guitarist Chris Reimer brought about a reassessment of things within the band, and in particular Long's songwriting. In need of a different vantage point, Long began writing words before music for the first time, enveloping himself in silence rather than sound.
When it came time to set these lyrics to music, Long started writing with only his electric guitar in hand — another first. The focus on this instrument was due in large part to the time Long spent with Reimer, the guitarist for Women who had joined Long and percussionist Logan Kroeber to become the third member of the Dodos throughout 2011 before unexpectedly passing away early the following year.
"Chris was a huge influence on the way I think about guitar, songwriting, and music in general," reveals Long. "Seeing how he could transform and shape sound with an electric guitar inspired me to explore more tones and use those tones to begin writing a song."
And so, when he began to formulate the tracks that would ultimately comprise Carrier, Long employed two principles he inherited from Reimer: patience to let a song develop and a judgment-free enthusiasm for sound.
To this end, Long and Kroeber decided to record in their hometown of San Francisco for the first time, allowing for less time constraints and a more pressure-free experience than past out-of-state sessions had afforded.
Although John Vanderslice's Tiny Telephone studio was initially selected for its analog-friendly set-up, the duo were happy to find themselves working within a supportive community of like-minded musicians that included engineers Jay and Ian Pellicci, both of whom assisted in the production of Carrier, as well as the Magik Magik Orchestra, which appears on several tracks.
As a result, the album the Dodos crafted is refreshingly sincere: no computers, no gimmicks — just eleven songs that are beautiful and solid and true and honest.
"Substance" effortlessly embodies all of these traits, from the crisp drumming that announces its arrival to the bright guitar lines that weave in and out before eventually joining forces with a triumphant burst of trumpets.
"Confidence" begins like a calm before the storm, its strong vocals over gentle guitar and drums soon erupting into a positively epic display of guitar riffs and hypnotizing percussion. The record's second side is anchored by "The Current," on which an angular guitar tone loops over a chugging guitar rhythm to satisfying effect as Long declares in a moment of catharsis, "If this love comes unto me / I'm with it / I'm with it."
Much too soon, Carrier ends with "The Ocean" — though Long and Kroeber view the track less as a conclusion and more of a "to be continued" into this album's follow-up, which they have already begun working on.
For a band briefly in flux, it's clear now that the Dodos' outlook on the future has never looked more certain.