The Dodos reach new heights with their eight full-length release Grizzly Peak. This comes as a culmination of 15 years of work for guitarist/singer Meric Long with longtime band mate and drummer Logan Kroeber. As a result the record sounds uniquely their own, brewed from Long’s unique finger-picking style and the duo’s propensity for odd rhythms and patterns. There are plenty of rhythmic shifts and albums in this record, creating illusions of unsteady footing with each odd beat and surprising twist and turn. Riffs take on the role of percussion for some sections, while sometimes camouflaging itself inside a string section, it’s a distinct departure from folk/art pop. Familiar in some ways but with a clear signature stamp that only they possess.
The record starts off the gate with loud, bold and bombastic choices. “Annie” and “Pale Horizon” feel like set pieces, with densely layered elements that can pull the listener in. These layers multiply, interweave and disappear just as easily. Long’s vocals along with the background harmonies merge and diverge with the string section, then with the drums. It feels like its own orchestra designed and conducted with its own set of rules. Very interesting to follow and deconstruct for those who enjoy doing that kind of thing. And Grizzly Peak grows even more expansive with each listen, truly a testament to the band’s hard work.
Some other notables are “With A Guitar”, seemingly borne from a desire for stringed-instrument violence. The song is a lot quieter than its peers, but it brims with anger and scorn, burning underneath the surface, leaving wisps of smoke trailing to the air. The centerpiece “Eyes Open” is an eye-opener in itself, full of odd twisty rhythms. Uniquely unpredictable, I can imagine fresh listeners never being able to see where it leads. The song is dense and elaborate, tense and a little claustrophobic as it develops. Which makes sense as Long stated that he’s channeled some of his inner stubbornness to the song.
Even the simpler cuts in the album feels like a folk tune from the future, where odd musical rhythms have evolved and are widely used. Closing track “The Surface” is a definite banger and a somber sendoff. It asks the question “Where do we go from here?”. When you’ve reached the Grizzly Peak, the next move might seem elusive. But settle down and look back at what you’ve achieved, and you might just find the answer staring back at you. Along with the beautiful things you’ve created in the long and arduous journey.