Band of the Day

2012.07.26

The Do

A Finnish/French duo hops genres in their quest for whimsical pop perfection
And you should know that in my heart you fill every corner.
lyrics from On My Shoulders

The name (pronounced 'dough') comes from the first note of the solfège scale (the note was also paid tribute in the movie The Sound Of Music). The Dø also refers to the musical duo of Olivia Merilahti and Dan Levy who first met in 2005 when they were called on to record the music for the French film Empire of Wolves. The two began a musical collaboration, releasing The Bridge Is Broken EP three months after meeting. Their debut A Mouthful was released by the label Cinq 7 in 2008. The band’s latest effort, Both Ways Open Jaws, came out in 2011 and showcases a range of eclectic influences from Hungarian composer Bela Bartok to sounds of the American Applachia.

While many indie bands can be rightly labeled cinematic, The Dø's story begins in film, as vocalist Olivia Merilahti and multi-instrumentalist Dan Levy met while recording music for the French film Empire of the Wolves in 2005. Their richly textured compositions would make directors the world over slather, but don't think the duo's songs are regulated to atmosphere; they're well-versed in avant pop with a focus on songwriting. Evoking a wide variety of artists like Björk, The Velvet Underground and the Strokes, to name just a few, The Dø are at once whimsical, passionate and richly orchestral, and do it all with a sturdy groove.

Both the duo's 2008 debut Mouthful and 2011 sophomore album Both Ways Open Jaws managed to rise high in the French charts, and with good reason. Both Ways Open Jaws is packed with killer tracks that are far from uniform, yet still tied together. “Dust It Off” is mostly just dusty keyboard and Merilahti's hauntingly beautiful vocals that sound like a higher-pitched version of Nico's elegant dejection. Levy brings in glitchy drums and horns halfway through, but the vocals are still the star. “Gonna Be Sick!” is a rousing cauldron of influences anchored by a pulsing rhythm section that sounds almost like a really pissed off jazz band and one of Merilahti's most memorable vocal performances on the chorus. Arguably the album's best moment, “Too Insistent” is one of those songs that's so perfect that you’ll swear you'd heard it before the first time you ever hear it. Rhythmically, it brings out the junkyard jazz clang Levy uses elsewhere on the album while Merilahti's vocals are at once yearning and incredibly endearing as she sings, “Why won't you let me go?/Just let me grow/I'm still a tiny toe.” Building into a miniature epic with sweeping strings and regal horns, you imagine it soundtracking the emotional peak of The Dø's personal story.

Elsewhere on the album The Dø dabble with skillfully ramshackle soul and R&B, quietly gorgeous folk and rich electronic textures. Their influences are all over the place, but the duo is nothing if not consistent and quality, with highs that absolutely soar.