Not all Foxes are so fleet, not all Shins built so sweet. In the past, San Francisco’s The Dodos have made percussion their stock in trade, with Logan Kroeber’s big, spacious drumming filling in the holes left by Meric Long’s athletic finger-picking on the acoustic guitar. Long’s voice rarely lingered over that jagged backbone, instead submitting to the beat of those things and reveling in a music that was simple (two players) yet heavy in terms of texture. Time To Die isn’t a sea change, but there are some significant additions: electric guitar, third Dodo Keaton Snyder (on vibes), and most noticeably, Long’s sudden interest in sounding pretty. With Shins/Fleet Foxes producer Phil Ek in the mix, it’s an easy accusation to make, but it’s far too difficult to ignore the dulcet, wintry wimpiness (Long’s singing) that overlays album opener “Small Deaths” or the somewhat vanilla single, “Fables.” Without the piercing keen of James Mercer or several supporting harmonies, it’s a problem that appears on nearly every song, taking just that much punch out of the truly fantastic instrumentation. “Longform” is one of the brilliant exceptions: Sampled vocal loops, syncopated plucking and drumming, spiky electric guitar, and vibraphone hits merge into a bright and bristling clatter. “Two Medicines” also shows off what the new, musically open Dodos can do, but until the vocals come into sync, an album-length high-water mark will remain elusive.
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