One might be forgiven a bit to not expect much from Visiter based on the rather bland album artwork. Although the stylized logo of the group sits in the bottom-right corner, a rough, crayon-drawn yellow blob with the album title in the middle of a white sheet is all that adorns the rest of the front cover. Oh, but the music! Dodos are a two-piece group hailing from San Francisco that mainly create songs out of a drum kit, an acoustic guitar, and vocals. It's a simple setup, and one that's been done a million times before, but this inventive twosome has coaxed what is easily one of my favorite albums of the year so far out of such modest construction.
Sure, they augment songs with everything from toy piano to banjo and occasional horns and backup vocals, but it's all about how they weave inventive changes, great melodies, and interesting rhythms into a fourteen song album that runs almost an hour in length without wearing out their welcome. "Walking" opens the release with a banjo and guitar duo while singer Meric Long is joined by Laura Gibson on the lovely, understated song.
That's just the start of the long, wonderful journey, though, and "Fools" finds the duo launching into a sort of primal, but sparkling track that twists in turns in just the right ways while reminding one a bit of playful work from Animal Collective. Perhaps the best one-two punch of songs on the release (and two tracks that really highlight the wide range of the group) are "Jodi," and "Ashley," arriving about two-thirds of the way through the album. The former finds the group swerving through over six minutes of excitement that veer in and out of syncopation while at the same time alternately dazzling with intricate playing and simply pounding away with vigor. On the other hand, the latter again shows off the more delicate side from the group, mingling quiet drums with quiet, picked guitar playing and more female background vocals.
At almost an hour long, Visiter is one of those releases that sounds a bit long on first listen, but it casts a spell and reveals a lot more depth on multiple listens. Even when the group stretch things out to over six minutes (as they do on the album closer "God?"), unique guitar tunings, creative dynamic shifts, and invigorating playing keep Visiter head and shoulders above most releases with twice (or three or four) times the amount of players and the medium-fidelity charming production just adds to enjoyment. Sounding somewhat like a lot of groups but not exactly like anyone, this is an album you shouldn't miss.