On their first four albums, the Dodos worked a singular sleight-of-hand: making the simple sound complex. Meric Long (vocals/guitar) and Logan Kroeber (drums) were more indie-rock punks than virtuosos, but their songs were arranged and performed with a breathless restlessness that nearly resembled prog-rock.
But Carrier, the duo’s fifth LP, is more obvious in its grandeur. Long layers his guitars in lush harmonies and counter-lines, moving through precise time-signature shifts with Kroeber’s intricate percussion and the subtle moans of the Magik Magik Orchestra. But instead of sounding celebratory, the album’s sprawl is tinted by a melancholy glow: Carrier was recorded following the 2012 death of touring guitarist Chris Reimer, and that mournful spirit looms large. “Words we never said — did we really need ‘em?” Long sings on the gorgeous “Substance,” his impassioned cries swallowed by brass and cymbals. “Someone give them to me now.” Elsewhere, over frosty reverb chill of “Death,” he seems to speak directly to his former bandmate: “If I took your place, would it hurt?” Carrier is clearly a heavy load, but the Dodos hold it aloft with grace.