Fittingly, considering the title of its lead single, The Dodos’ fifth album Carrier is not short on confidence. The San Francisco duo covers a lot of heavy themes across the track “Confidence” and throughout the album, and the band does so with all the dramatic aplomb that characterizes its best work. However, the band’s shift to more electric instrumentation on Carrier (opposed to the sparse acoustic guitar/drums dynamic that defined 2008’s successful Visiter) causes the sound of the record to slightly lose sight of the band’s identity.
The jangling guitar on tracks like “Destroyer” and “The Current” show the tremendous upside of this approach, as the songs demonstrate the excellent songwriting of Carrier without ever overwhelming the songs in sound. “Confidence,” on the other hand, loses its way in the electric guitar storm, as it fades from a touching first half into a directionless mess of a guitar coda. The sensitive, harmony-soaked “Transformer” seems as if it were directly lifted from the last Local Natives record, which wouldn’t be an altogether bad thing if singer Meric Long didn’t sound so much like the Natives’ singer Taylor Rice.
The best tracks on Carrier are the ones that take the frank, emotional tone of Visiter’s best songs and combine them with subtle additions that complement, rather than overpower, Long’s impassioned lyrical delivery. “Relief,” “Substance” and “Family” do this well, and, when combined with the more upbeat jangle of “Destroyer” or “The Current,” make Carrier’s back half a slightly dark but enjoyable pop journey. Despite this, Carrier is more memorable for its missteps than its successes. Featuring a few too many songs that outstay their welcome, the album meanders aimlessly before hitting stride in its second half.
— James Butler
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