Spelled in Bones
Record Review by Adam McKibbin
Eric Johnson occupies a piece of musical terrain somewhere between beach and desert, writing both euphoric summer pop hymns and dusted-up, folksy Americana. Indeed, nature plays a large role in informing the work of the head Fruit Bat, who spends Spelled in Bones singing about love, life cycles, and the legs of bees. Interestingly, Johnson had set out to make a “dark bummer record,” but, instead, found himself enjoying some unforeseen happiness.
It certainly carried over to his work. Even at its most subdued or solemn, Spelled in Bones is a joyful work, one that sounds completely at peace with itself and its surroundings, and likely will inspire the same for its listeners. Owing a heavy debt to Mr. McCartney, Johnson shows off a versatile range, going falsetto to much better effect than many of his peers. Other reference points include Of Montreal and The Shins – so, yeah, not exactly tear-in-your-beer music.
Johnson and his bandmates (Dan Strack and John Byce) like to change around instrumentation, which leads to some well-placed embellishments of e-bow and, once again, the countrified echoes of banjo and lap steel. While the lower-tempo songs (such as “TV Waves”) are well performed, Fruit Bats really hit their stride when they turn it up a notch. “Legs Of Bees” comes with a readymade chorus of la-la-la’s and a propulsive guitar riff that may remind some listeners of dearly departed James. Elsewhere, “The Wind That Blew My Heart Away” builds to a rousing climax without stretching on for too long—and, in the meantime, features some of the album’s most affecting harmonies and most straightforward lyrics. Or, instead of scanning for highlights, Spelled in Bones makes for an easily digestible listen from top to bottom.
Fruit Bats - Live - April 12, 2006
Fruit Bats / Sera Cahoone - Live - February 3, 2009
More by this writer:
The Explorers Club - Freedom Wind
Faris Nourallah - King of Sweden
The Elected - Sun, Sun, Sun
Coldplay - X & Y