The Dodos
Visiter


4.0
excellent

Review

by Lewis P. STAFF
July 19th, 2008 | 71 replies | 16,650 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Come and join us in the trenches.

The fact remains that I didn’t very much care for Visiter (named for a drawing duo vocalist/guitarist Meric Long and percussionlist Logan Kroeber received playing for special-ed students and which now serves as the album’s cover) the first time I heard it. I didn’t care for it the second, third, or twentieth time I heard it. I could tell that it was definitely a work worthy of praise, but the album’s frankness and solid workmanship gave it a shallow kind of quaintness; beautiful but emotionally stunted. I waited for the quirks and cracks in Long’s performance, a touch of vulnerability or sorrow that he seems to want to convey but won’t. I waited for the squeal of guitars; the lone pluck out of place, maybe a beat that would stumble into another.

What I was given was an album that seemed as stubborn as its length was long. I wasn’t alone in feeling this: Cole Stryker, writing for Popmatters, stated, in their 6 out of 10 review, “Meric Long’s… half-hearted delivery lacks the emotional impact of Jeff Buckley- a deadpan, ‘Your love is like a thorn in my side’ being particularly groan-inducing example,” even equating them to the freak-folk scene that began when Natalie Portman opened her big, fat mouth. But is that really where we’ve ended up, questioning a band as talented and solid as the Dodos because they steer clear of the quirks and emotional tics that we’ve grown so accustomed to in rock, and especially indie-rock, music? I went into Visiter with this mindset and it was thrown back in my face: if there’s one thing that always got to me on those first few listens was the feeling that the problem wasn’t Visiter but me. I was looking for something, anything in the wrong places.

On the outset, Visiter immediately draws listeners in, the delicate acoustic-driven opener, “Walking,” setting the stage for what follows it. The folk roots shine through clearly here, Long plucking intensely at a banjo as guest vocalist Laura Gibson gives the chorus a warm, feminine touch. It’s the stuff intros should strive to be, so short, simple and effective, and builds rather nicely into the clanking percussions of “Red and Purple.” The song is a rollicking example of American folk and Long’s “deadpan” performance, giving the song a bit of Beach Boys in the chorus: “I know that I am yours and you will be mine / Come and join us in the trenches / red and purple by our side.” He is quite the presence on the album, a born performer that brings a delicate sort of charm to each song; “Fools” is notable for the spurts of electric guitar that disrupt the locomotive drum rolls, but it’s Long that steals the spotlight as the music drops out from under him (“I’ve been / I’ve been silent”).

What really allows Visiter to stick out, and what was always a draw for me, is the small details that the Dodos touch upon but never run into the ground. “Joe’s Waltz,” clocking in at 7-minutes and at only the fifth track, is a country western fitted with a piano spewing ragtime under it (the song’s transition halfway through is an album highlight). The dissonance to John’s voice in “Winter” is a perfect counter-focus to the strained chords and hollow barrel beat, rising steadily into a horn section that could easily be Beirut’s Zach Condon making an appearance. The static-y clashing of instruments in “Paint the Rust” brings a rousing immediacy to the lyrics: “I see the man of every man / of every girl that I’ve ever loved / they sing the same until the dawn / when we’re away off into the sun.” There’s a sensual underlining to the understated “Park Song” and a self-acknowledging smirk in Long’s delivery (“Saw the girl I know from my job / I think that she must think that I’m retarded / I act so dumb when I get started”).

What I came to realize about Visiter, and what ultimately made the record for me, was how I was to view Long and his performance. He was the reason I found the album so difficult to crack, like he was treating his issues without the necessary weight behind them. But Long treats his stories like he’s telling them over a few drinks, asserting his masculinity by filtering his issues through folklore, which means that once the cracks start to show (Gibson’s ghostly refrains of the title character in “Ashley”), Visiter goes in some unexpected directions. The noisy cries in “The Season” pack a wallop that leads, somewhat successfully (the rickety “Undeclared” comes into play here, but we’ll get back to that), to Visiter’s most powerful and resounding success, album closer “God?” With the sway of bells, Long and Kroeber treat “God?” with a hardened precision, the drums a rousing rumble of frustration as Long paints a stricken relationship with his faith: “Oh God, where’d you go? / Tell us how to feel inside / no lies, no lies, no lies.”

Even so, the album is still a bit too long at 59 minutes, and while each song is good in its own right (except, perhaps, the drunken, barroom rouser “It’s That Time Again”), some could have been excised to make the album feel a bit tighter. There’s some issues with the tracklisting as well, which is the album’s biggest weakness: where “Ashley,” “The Season” and “God?” should have made for an exceptional closing segment, “Undeclared” corrupts the flow and should have been an unobtrusive epilogue or dropped altogether. With the variety evident on Visiter, it's clear that the duo have a wide array of albums in their collection that influence each and every inch of the album. What makes Visiter so riveting and definite is the unshakeable feeling that the Dodos are still something very much their own. Visiter is an impressive sophomore album, a wonderful growth for the Dodos, and one of the year’s subtlest surprises, even if it took thirty listens to get there. Take this as a formal apology from me: Visiter might just be essential.



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user ratings (245)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
Eduard (4.5)
The Dodos are a perfect little indie-folk band and are a pleasure to listen to...


Comments:Add a Comment 
plane
Staff Reviewer
July 19th 2008



6092 Comments


idk how this got so long, i feel like i should go back and take a bunch of stuff out but here ya go

Shoot Them
July 19th 2008



81 Comments


Holy monkeys that is a long review!

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
July 19th 2008



15728 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

but its good.

like the album

Digging: Alvvays - Alvvays

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
July 20th 2008



4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

There are a lot of little kinks in this review between the disparity of " for songs and " for quotes. Regardless it's a great review on an album that is simply incredible.

Digging: Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again

ClearTheLane
July 20th 2008



990 Comments


Hey, that's a very good review. I should check this band out.
By the way (planewreck), because of the picture, are you a fan of Paranoid Park?
I am and it's my favorite movie of all time actually. It's weird that it wasn't that much critically acclaimed as I thought, and usually the films I like are exactly that, just like in music =D
Very well picked soundtrack by Gus Van Sant again..

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
July 21st 2008



4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

why haven't you all picked this up yet, fuck, does Jared Dillon or Nick Greer have to write the review?

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2008



15728 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this shit ain't no Have a Nice Life!This Message Edited On 07.20.08

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
July 21st 2008



4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

yeah it's exponentially better

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
July 21st 2008



17920 Comments


i bet you the dodos will go extinct in a short while LOl

iarescientists
July 21st 2008



5863 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

the birds went extinct becfause they couldn't make music so i think these dodos will be around until they lose their music buttons

The Jungler
July 21st 2008



4827 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I wish this album was little shorter, cause then I would probably listen to it a lot more. It's good though.

IsItLuck?
Emeritus
July 22nd 2008



4927 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

lyrics/vocals are stellar upon further, alreadly proven facts

timothyzha
July 24th 2008



23 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good review, although i like undeclared.
i've had this for a long time and its kind of lost a lot of its greatness. at first i'd have given in a 4/4.5

Tyler
Emeritus
August 1st 2008



7926 Comments


I like what I've heard from this. I do worry that it may grow stale if the length issues are as real as I've read but I'm not too worried about that right now.

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 1st 2008



6092 Comments


It's pretty easy to put on in the background or to get into. I got over the length after a while but I enjoy the end of the album more than the beginning anyway so working my way to get there isn't as big of a deal as those that enjoy the first half more.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 1st 2008



15728 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

the second half is equally if not more impressive than the first half

InsertTacosHere
August 17th 2008



153 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This reminds me of Battles, sort of. I know it sounds completely different, but I think it's something about the crazy percussion. This is such a good album.

PuddleSwimmer
August 21st 2008



1457 Comments


Very very good review.

Very very good album.

istaros
August 22nd 2008



310 Comments


among the year's best, surely

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
September 30th 2008



15728 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

album's still so good. top 5 of 08 for me so far



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