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The Dodos: Time to Die (Frenchkiss) 

Gently layered on top of the Dodos' pounding rhythms, both from the polyrhythmic drums and syncopated guitar strumming, is a melodic sweetness.

That combination, plus some classic California psychedelic touches, gives the band's pop songs their fuzzy edges—too often at the expense of the hectic rawness of Visiter, the Dodos' 2008 release.

For Time to Die, the San Francisco guitar and drums duo grew to a trio, with the addition of an electric vibraphone that both expands the percussive sensibilities and finds ways to take up the spaces in between the rhythms. Producer Phil Ek (The Shins, Built to Spill) is on board to handle the band's bigger sound.

While generally light in sound, the band can turn wicked lyrically. On "The Strums," Meric Long sings, "So children kill your teachers, kill your parents, then kill your preachers, 'cause you know that they will only doubt you"—as sweetly as possible, of course. Dark introspection emerges elsewhere: "Like an opera you sing about yourself, you feel nothing," Long sings on "Two Medicines."

It's hard to fault the Dodos' ambition or musicianship, but the band's song-crafting is a step behind; there's no standout song to recommend. Ultimately, Time to Die sounds careful and calculated, pleasant enough to draw in the listener, but sadly not delivering much else once you're inside.

More by Eric Swedlund

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