Unfortunately, there’s quite a large elephant in the room that must be addressed before discussing and doing proper justice to Carrier, and that is the death of former guitarist Christopher Reimer. Reimer was not with the band terribly long, however, one can easily hear the echoes of his talents on the record; the guitar work intricately twists in and out of loops, forming delicate yet distinctive phrases that harken back to Reimer’s previous work with Women. While it’s obvious that Reimer has left a great impression on the band, Carrier never feels like a tribute to the man – rather a faithful adoption and adaptation of a style the Dodos were clearly stricken with; and through this adoption, The Dodos have released what is at once perhaps their most interesting, strangest and even most concise work to date.
While the lyrics are often clandestine and unusual, it constantly feels like there is a sense of communication going on. They’re never obscurantic, and they never intentionally obfuscate the subject matter; but are rather a sincere if somewhat clumsy way to recognise and confess something that is already confusing. Take “Death”, for instance, the albums penultimate and (in my opinion) strongest track. The song is simple and melancholic, and relies heavily on a catchy if downbeat melody – however it’s the tracks disconnected and furtive lyrics that truly make it memorable. In a stream of consciousness, the chorus gloomily drones; “death, what could be worse? If I had something to complain about”. It’s one of those rare occasions where the detachment of the singing actually lends itself to the sincerity of the track , and you feel as if you too are being carried away Long’s cloudy, reflexive train of thought.
While never overpowering and certainly not uninterrupted, there’s a encroaching sense of dread on Carrier. “Stranger” build into distressing questions accompanied by stark guitar stings and bassy percussion, while the slow crawl and wiry guitar on “Family” lend to itself to the overall uncertainty present on the album. The excitement and energy felt on tracks like “Confidence” and “The Current” serve to alleviate the sombre tone somewhat, however they also sound like they’re insisting that there is something, good or bad, is on the horizon. There’s a heavy anticipation on Carrier, and it all comes to a head with the final track, “The Ocean”. “The Ocean” is a dark, fearful escalation, beginning with Long (perhaps futilely) attempting to reassure himself “it’s only the ocean…”
It’s as if the catastrophe the rest of the album has been building towards is finally here, and Long is bracing for impact. There is a sudden moment of what I can only assume is clarity, carried by the percussion, where Long tells himself “there’s no need to run at all”, before the strings kick in. It’s a moment that’s truly heartfelt and beautiful and, after everything that came before, cathartic.