A Journal Of The Dark Arts
and i will remember.”
We want to remember. We don’t want to forget.
It can be difficult to say where one is unless one knows where one has been. It can be difficult to know where you are going, unless you know where you are.
If we were an army, and if we believed that we were an army
And we believed that everyone was scared like little lost children in their grown up clothes and poses
So we ended up alone here floating through long wasted days, or great tribulations.
While everything felt wrong
Good words, strong words, words that could’ve moved mountains
Words that no one ever said
We were all waiting to hear those words and no one ever said them
And the tactics never hatched
And the plans were never mapped
And we all learned not to believe
And strange lonesome monsters loafed through the hills wondering why
And it is best to never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever wonder why
So tangle – oh tangle us up in bright red ribbons!
Let’s have a parade
It’s been so long since we had a parade, so let’s have a parade!
Let’s invite all our friends
And all our friends’ friends!
Let’s promenade down the boulevards with terrific pride and light in our eyes
Twelve feet tall and staggering
Sick with joy with the angels there and light in our eyes
Brothers and sisters, hope still waits in the wings like a bitter spinster
Impatient, lonely and shivering, waiting to build her glorious fires
It’s because of our plans man
a silver mt. zion, built then burnt (hurrah! hurrah!)
It seems so long since indie rock (read: guitar-centric rock ‘n roll, not on Warner Bros., Sony, EMI, or BMG) . It seemed the scene could only spit out derivatives and clones, rehashing proven formulas. For me, most of the innovations in modern music have been coming from the electronic underground, although there have been a number of notable guitar-based records this year (Low, Yo La Tengo, Deafheaven, more that we will expound upon at a future time and place). It gets us excited! It gets us salivating! In a passionate fervor, we dig out moldering boxes of digitized plastic, and set to reminiscing.
Only paying attention to the brightest shiniest toy (which would mean only listening to trap remixes of top 40 hits, undoubtedly) does a great disservice to the music that we have loved, that has already impacted us and helped shape who we would become.
I truly loved a lot of the indie rock of the 2000s. By 2006, i had quit drinking and moved to Colorado, gotten my hands on a shitty laptop with a wireless PCI adapter, and started this adventure of writing about music in earnest. For once, it seemed that i was watching something as it happened, during the goldrush of pirate music blogs, when everybody was hearing everything, sharing everything, talking about it all. It was like a universal language, even if everybody had fragmented and particular tastes. We were all working towards a common goal: knowledge and appreciation.
Due to the ephemeral nature of data downloads, daily posts, and a truly staggering amount of information, it was easy to forget bands, even if you legitimately loved them. There was something noble yet almost humiliating at the same time, as a horde of indie barbarians in ratty sweaters competed for yr time, yr love and support. Bands continued on, in near anonymity, and those that continued for love of music, with something genuine and personal to say, kept on keeping on, and many became quite good indeed, against such fierce competition.
I remember liking The Dodos, although i cannot hum you one of their songs off of their previous 4 records (although i plan on remedying this, as soon as i finish typing this). This is true of much of the recorded output i digested in the 2000s. Listening to Carrier is like observing the last 8 years of indie rock, suspended in amber, all the better to take a closer look.
While it is ultimately futile to try and create generalized generational statements, as we have exploded into postmodern scintillations, and there is no ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ heard ’round the world in this day and age, there do seem to be trends and broader movements, that speaks volumes about where we are as artists and HUMANS.
The prevailing (sonic) themes on The Dodo’s new album would be:
1. Tribal drums.
2. Intricate, layered guitars.
3. Lush vocal harmonies.
You can hear examples of this wild, intricate drumming style, courtesy of Logan Kroeber, on newer records from Iron And Wine, tUnE-yArDs, The Knife (of course), and many others. This would be one of the main signifiers of indie rock made post-2010. It brings to mind the Talking Heads, with their arty blend of angsty anglo wiriness, welded with an African stomp. I think this indicates, for one, that racism is on it’s way to rotting in the ground (although one could make an argument towards exotica or cultural appropriation). To me, it seems to be a call towards Ritual and wild abandon. Perhaps we are re-inheriting the ’60s Dionysian current?
The clean, layered guitars speak of people assimilating the possibilities of modern recording technology, and the way it is shaping ‘folk’ music of any stripe. It’s hard to imagine someone making a straight up acoustic record, with simple strummed Dylan chord changes. We can’t even bring ourselves to WRITE songs like that, anymore. With the ability to listen back to recordings, and to easily overdub layers, songwriting is becoming more complex, able to convey more subtle emotions and artful inner visions.
Much has already been made of Meric Long‘s axe wielding, on Carrier. As the official backstory goes, this record was made directly in the aftermath of the death of Chris Reimer, former guitarist for the band Women, who was briefly part of The Dodos’ touring band. Carrier is way more focused on the electric guitar, as Long has previously focused more on a frenzied acoustic attack. Working with Reimer taught the guitarist to think more of tone and texture, the result sounds like a cross between Fugazi and Robert Fripp‘s atmospheric contributions to Eno‘s Another Green World. It’s an anglicized psychedelia, post-punk head music, full of tension, paranoia and release.
The combination of guitar and drums are the best thing Carrier has going for it. The band are as precise and as powerful as a Warstila-Sulzer, hitting on all cylinders. It’s thrilling to watch the duo pummel and pulse like a pair of synchronized swimmers, and the listener will find more ‘jammers’ and ‘ragers’ on this record then their previous exploits. This intricacy and precision are another trademark of modern indie rock. It comes about from listening: listening to yrself, listening to other’s, a lifetime drowned in sound. Some get lost in the noise, and some cut through it. Those that are able to focus and refine are becoming like cyborgs, as musicians meld heart and soul with machine like control. This is android rock; east meets west, Heidegger with the Heisenberg principle. In my opinion, this is the way through, a way to come to grips with the technology and the effect it is having on our Humanity and Creativity.
Last but not least: the presence of Beach Boys vocal harmonies. The Dodos hail from San Francisco, and the lush, chorale-like singing calls to mind a West Coast spirituality, Brian Wilson’s ‘teenage symphonies to god’. Even if it is subliminal, it does suggest a return to HOPE, optimism, innocence. Carrier contains a sunny psychedelia, perfect for the last days of summer and the onset of Fall.
Speaking of the changing of the seasons, Carrier is the ultimate Scorpio record, all about Death and Transformation. Reflect on the image of the dragonfly, if you don’t know what that means. Much has been said already about how Carrier was influenced by the passing of Chris Reimer, who passed away right before the band entered the studio. Reimer’s ghost is all over this record, and it clearly put the band in a reflective mood, wondering about what is transmitted through a song (‘transformer’), and reflecting on the beyond with the album closers ‘Death’ and ‘The Ocean’, that give the feeling of being underwater, detached but still connected. It’s chilling, and ultimately uplifting, and also features some of the finest sonics to be found on this record. It plugs you into the record, and all its ineffable mysteries, compelling you to turn the record over, and start the journey again.
Carrier sounds like a death knell and a eulogy for the last decade, with all of its potential and its shortcomings. It is the sound of maturing, and we are all growing up. Those that survive stand to make some of the finest art this species have ever known, but many will be lost along the way. Carrier remembers, and we won’t ever forget.
…look forward to more analysis of indie rock from the last 13 years, as we are getting back into it. If there’s any records that you found particularly impactful, or feel like more people need to remember or find out about, leave us a comment. We’re always listening. †
listen on spotify
get it on Amazon